Gov. Nathan Deal proposed a huge bolstering of the state ethics commission, but House leaders have cut back his ambitious plans and government watchdogs aren’t happy about it.
Under Deal’s budget proposal, the long dysfunctional agency, which enforces the state’s campaign finance and lobbying laws, would get four new attorneys and four investigators to resolve complaints more quickly and eliminate backlogs. Most of the complaints are filed against state and local politicians and lobbyists.
The House didn’t go along with the governor’s proposal, cutting the expansion in half. The chamber backed giving the agency two more lawyers and two auditors, cutting Deal’s proposal by $400,000. Still, it is more than the commission has now.
William Perry of Georgia Common Cause criticized the cuts, noting that House Speaker David Ralston had agreed with Deal that a funding increase was needed. He called the House’s move “a signal that the leadership in our state has no real interest in fixing a problem that has cost taxpayers more than $8 million and counting. Repeated underfunding of the agency has left it a mess and, without the proper resources, it can’t be fully cleaned up.”
Perry said a performance audit of the agency last fall concluded that a lack of independent funding was among the commission’s biggest problems.