JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – State Auditor Nicole Galloway’s office has seen an increased workload over the past year, but the top-ranking Democrat in Missouri’s executive branch says her team can accomplish everything they need to with the exact same budget presented to the Legislature during the previous year.
Galloway presented her office’s budget requests before the House Budget Committee on Wednesday morning, requesting $6.6 million from the general revenue for an $8.5 million operating budget. The other portion of that total comes from federal money and revenue collected on audits by the office on behalf of municipalities and citizens.
The auditor’s budget requests echo those recommended by Republican Gov. Eric Greitens.
The number of audits put out by the office each year has gradually increased, with 147 completed audits in 2016, as compared to the 135 completed in 2015. Galloway says that her office right now has 47 audits currently in the works, and expects to have a similar, if not higher, number by the end of the current year.
Galloway’s team also is in charge of writing the fiscal note requests for initiative petitions seeking to get on the election ballot. She says in the past three months, her team has processed the same number fiscal note requests for initiative petitions that they did in 13 months.
“As of yesterday, my office received 160 fiscal note requests for initiative petitions in the 2018 election cycle,” Galloway said. “The previous midterm record was 129, and the record number of fiscal note requests was in 2015 election cycle at 223.”
The increased number of initiative petitions would, in theory, cost the office more money, since the auditor’s office pays for the fiscal note of each request filed, with no charge to the person filing the petition. The payment for those fiscal notes come from the state auditor’s budget.
“That is part of the resources that we use within our budget,” she said. “I’m committed to ensuring that my team uses their resources effectively and meets all of the legal requirements for initiative petitions.”
One concern the House committee members had was about the state’s legal expense fund. In recent years, the money needed for the state’s legal defense has continued to grow, with several lawsuits against the state involving harassment and discrimination.
Galloway’s office announced an audit of the legal expense fund a few months back.
“What we’re looking at is the money that is being spent from the legal expense fund across state government, so not isolated with one agency, because they are taxpayer resources that are going to pay these settlements,” Galloway said. “We’re in the middle of that audit right now, and it should be released in the next several months.”
The committee did ask about the number of lapses in the budget, wondering if there was any room to be cut.
“The lapse amount for last year was about $1.3 million,” Michael Moorefield, Galloway’s chief of staff, said. “About $360,000 of that was general revenue dollars that were lapsed directly back to the General Assembly. The remaining is on authority to spend, which is if we have a large petition and the payment does not occur at the exact same time that the office has to pay out salaries. That’s why the General Assembly grants spending authority, and then we lapse back any of that spending authority.”
“Why do you need a bunch of lapse in your PS line? Do you feel like all of that lapse is necessary to run the office effectively?” Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, the House Budget Committee chair, asked.
“When we do, say a petition audit, we pay for that out of our petition fund, and collect that receivable back from the petitioner,” Galloway said. “That spending authority allows flexibility between when we’re actually expending vs. when we receive this funds back in the receivable. Really, it’s just a timing issue.”
Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.