JEFFERSON CITY — In the midst of debate over various ways to save Missouri money, lawmakers proposed legislation Wednesday that would allow the state auditor to compare different agencies in order to make them more efficient.
"The purpose of the legislation is to do the first-ever comparative audit of Missouri state government," State Auditor Tom Schweich said.
At a news conference Wednesday, Schweich, backed by Republicans in the House and Senate, proposed legislation that would allow his office to begin a "comparative analysis." Schweich, a Republican, said he wants to review criteria such as overtime policies, travel spending, worker pay and the use of contractors at five to 10 agencies that receive the largest amounts of state appropriations.
The auditor said statutes governing the auditor's office do not specifically say it can do a comparative audit of multiple agencies. He is supporting legislation filed Wednesday by Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, requiring a comparative audit of state agencies' best practices to be completed by August 2013 and presented to the General Assembly.
"We think it's really going to introduce a new ability for the legislature to evaluate agencies and budgets in the future," Schweich said. "Instead of having to do a 'meat cleaver' approach because of a lack of insight into how these agencies operate, we will have some real data to determine where the savings can be made on a more precise basis."
Schaefer's legislation would require a one-time appropriation of about $300,000 to fund the audits. Schweich, though, said it could "save the state literally millions of dollars."
Democratic Floor Leader Rep. Mike Talboy, D-Jackson County, questioned the auditor's motives in proposing the legislation and said he does not see why Schweich needs the proposal or the money to do a job that his office should already have the ability to do.
"I realize that (Schweich) is new to the job, but I don't understand why he can't do a comparative audit now," Talboy said. "I understand he may be upset about his budget being cut, but if it's a matter of money then I think we should be having that conversation instead."
Schaefer is optimistic about the passage of the proposal.
"I think pretty much everybody's for efficient government, especially as something as innovative as this, and even though it seems like it would have been done in the past, it hasn't been," Shaefer said.
Schweich said if the legislature passes the proposal, it would be the first time Missouri implemented this type of analysis and potentially make Missouri the only governmental body, aside from Washington, D.C., to do so.
Rep. Sue Allen, R-St. Louis County, plans to also file the proposal in the House later this week.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.