State Auditor Susan Montee (D) was the keynote speaker at the Saturday morning brunch for the Jackson County Democratic Committee‘s Truman Days celebration held at the Hyatt Crown Center in Kansas City.
State Auditor Susan Montee (D): ….I want to take the opportunity to, now that I have you all here, to just talk a little bit about what we, what we do in the Auditor’s office….There are so many things going on that make it important to, to know when you go in and choose who you want to be serving in that office. Because it, it just, it’s especially in tough economic times like we’re in, to have someone, uh, who is working in there that understands that everything we do in that office can have some kind of effect on the decision making that it does….
….We do audit all of state government, all of the boards and commissions, we audit the court system. So we, we do traditionally do, when you think of in the office, but we do a lot of things on top of that as well. You know, we do all the small counties. And in the small counties we sure are seeing a lot of problems out there. We do all eighty-nine of them. So now, at the end of, at the end of this year I will have been to all eighty-nine of those counties one time in the four years in addition to a lot of other things…We’re dumping a lot of unfunded mandates on these counties. It’s very hard for them, um, to actually do some of the things that they need to. And we go in and we work and try to be, you know, a team member with them. And really it is, it is a time for, uh, all of us to be working together to get through the tough stuff…
…But then, we, we, review and register every single bond that goes through the state. We’ve had some of the largest bond, uh, the numbers have gone from, you know, small things when I first came in to Columbia just passed one of the largest bond issues in the history of the state because people don’t have any money right now and all of the governments are going out and, and, you know, trying to get more money in the door to fund their operations. And we are constantly being bombarded with extend, find ways to extend the amount of time they can do the bonds for. And do things that, that would create obligations for our future. And all of that stuff comes through our office, as well, and it really only takes, you know, a little bit of clout to, to come in and change the way that we operate in this state through our office.
Uh, we also certify all the property tax rates, which is something that has been a huge nightmare for us ’cause they keep changing all the property tax stuff, but we are having to make decisions about going in, enforcing tax rates on small jurisdictions, trying to work with them, or whether we go in and upset their entire tax structure. Believe me, sitting in a place that, that you are, where we’re talking about doing away with the earnings tax, if our office is able to come in and upset the way people do things it is a, it is not a good position to have someone who is beholden to political contributions sitting in it.
So, in all, in all of those types of ways there’s so many things that are office does that, that can affect everybody’s daily life.
Then we have this new thing with these ballot initiatives. Um, you know, it, it is very scary what has happened with the ballot initiatives. And here’s in a nutshell what happens with those – you know when you go in and you vote there’s two paragraphs there. There’s one that tells you what the thing does and then there’s the one that tells you whether it costs or saves anything for state and local government. Well Robin Carnahan writes the first paragraph and I write the second one. And then we both get sued. [laughter] It’s been a wild ride. Um, just to put it in perspective, in the eight years that Claire was the auditor she got sued a total of six times on ballot initiatives and I have had thirty-six [laughter] since I’ve been in office. So, it is a. it is a new and, and different, uh, operation goin’ on there…
…we’re down to only a few things that are gonna be, uh, potentially on the ballot. But they are some scary things. Um, doing away with the non-partisan court plan is probably going to be on the ballot. Sunsetting the earnings tax in St. Louis and Kansas City is probably going to make the ballot…
…We had a hundred and one separate ballot initiative petitions come through my office since the November oh-eight election. So, it is something that we really have to keep an eye on.
And so, when you talk about political possibilities for my office, believe me, there are so many more than, than you can count. Uh, but I have tried very hard since I’ve been in office to conduct the office in a way that is, is somewhat removed from, uh, the political process….
….It is a wonderful job because there are so many challenges and yet the rewards are so great. When we can find ways that we can increase efficiency and free up resources so we don’t have to have the kind of cuts that we are seeing right now it is a very good place to be in and a very good feeling to have. And so, it’s with those feelings, you know, that I say I’d like to continue to do the job for another four years….
….I have done a little reflecting on the last three and a half years and I really am proud of the work that we’ve done. We have reorganized the office, we’ve gone from four different divisions down to three, we’ve streamlined the way we do stuff, we do one type of report which means we can share resources so we can get more places, uh, we found all kinds of places to save, and, and make things more efficient. We, for the first time ever in Missouri history, won the national award for, uh, audit of the year, last year for our performance audit work on low income housing [applause]. And I have a whole stream of federal officials coming to work with us on the, uh, single audit work we were a part of the early reporting on weatherization. And ‘m working now with the Department of Energy and their inspector generals to make sure that we get all our money spent in the right way and that our stimulus money stimulates the economy in the way it’s supposed to do.
So, I’ve been approached by Republicans and Democrats alike to work on initiatives in their counties and in their cities. And I really feel like we have done a good job in our office and that people recognize the value of the office as a resource…
Cass County Democrats at the Saturday morning event.