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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Inslee's Veto Spares Performance Auditors, Cybersecurity Reviews

Tom Banse
Northwest News Network
Deputy State Auditor Jan Jutte, left, looks on as Washington Gov. Jay Inslee vetoes sections of the latest state operating budget.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee Monday signed into law an update to the state's two-year budget. It puts more money into the state's mental health hospitals and pays for costs from last summer's wildfires.

The governor also wielded his veto pen.

The deputy Washington state auditor and government watchdog groups urged Governor Inslee to spare the performance audit budget. With some artful use of his section veto power, Inslee did. The governor stopped a $10 million budget raid on the auditor's office passed by the legislature.

"We think these performance audits have value for the state,” the governor said. “They help us perfect operations. We thought it was important to keep this significant investment in this service."

The vetoed budget transfer means the state auditor's office can proceed to analyze IT security at state and local government agencies, among other planned reviews. A team of auditors -- who were otherwise facing layoff -- will check if government data is sufficiently protected against hackers.

During the legislative session, Deputy State Auditor Jan Jutte wrote that she was concerned the performance audit division would be victimized because of the legal troubles embroiling elected State Auditor Troy Kelley. Kelley is currently on trial in federal court on multiple counts of theft, money laundering and tax violations related to a real estate services firm he previously operated.

Democrat Inslee said Monday he was unsure whether Kelley's legal troubles had much to do with the budget cut to the state auditor's office. Inslee said it did not figure into his decision to spare the performance audit division.

On Monday, Jutte -- who is running the auditor's office in Kelley's absence -- stood beside Inslee as he vetoed the controversial budget raid.

"Thanks to this veto, we can avoid layoffs and complete our performance audit work plan," she said in a follow-up statement. “I understand that cuts and transfers were necessary in the most recent budget. After several productive conversations with the Governor’s staff, I have committed to leaving $5 million in the Performance Audits of Government Account to be transferred to the general fund for other uses."

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.