Terry Corbell, The Biz Coach
By Terry Corbell
Business Consultant

Former Washington Auditor Who Championed Good Government, Wins National Honor

April 13, 2013 

The man had a vision and now he’s being recognized for it.

Former Washington State Auditor Brian Sonntag, who is in retirement this year after superb performances in five terms, has won a prestigious national honor. That would be induction into the Heroes of the 50 States: The State Open Government Hall of Fame.

Mr. Sonntag stood out as the epitome of state-government transparency. Yes, as an elected official, he had an unparalleled vision.

Count me as a fan – not only as a citizen and business consultant, but as a columnist who interviewed him on multiple occasions as the “Biz Coach” on KING5.com and two other Washington media Web sites; as well as the host of “Washington Business Weekly,” the Association of Washington Business radio program.

It can’t be over-stated. He was a conscientious public servant dedicated to doing the right thing for taxpayers.

WPC weighs in

His award drew praise from a state public-policy think tank, Washington Policy Center (WPC).

“Sonntag has also been a strong advocate for Washington Policy Center’s proposed legislative transparency reforms,”said Jason Mercier, director, for WPCs Center for Government Reform. “NFOIC’s acknowledgment of Sonntag’s long-time support for open government is well deserved.”

His selection was announced by the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ).

The State Open Government Hall of Fame is a joint venture by SPJ and NFOIC. It was developed by leaders in both organizations as a way to recognize long-term contributions of individuals to open government in their states.

Induction into the State Open Government Hall of Fame recognizes “long and steady effort to preserve and protect the free flow of information about state and local government that is vital to the public in a democracy.” The award is intended to honor individuals – living or dead – whose lifetime commitment to citizen access, open government and freedom of information has left a significant legacy at the state and local level.

When Mr. Sonntag announced his intention to retire, it was a sad day for the state.

To review history and a record of his achievements, here’s what I wrote here on this portal:

No Lame Duck, Washington Official Enhances Economic Public Policy

Oct. 20, 2011  

Like all inspiring great leaders, he and his staff are tenacious in delivering value for all of Washington. Who? State Auditor Brian Sonntag.

Mr. Sonntag is a favorite on this portal, a sagacious Democratic, who has consistently delivered value to state residents, and has always been available to answer questions. Admittedly, I was a bit melancholy about Mr. Sonntag’s announced retirement in 2012.

He has served constituents well, particularly, with his agency’s performance audits and initiatives in improving state-government performance.

And to the end, he continues to do what’s best for the state. He’s working to enhance entrepreneurship, which will help put the state on sound economic footing.

Another favorite entity is Washington Policy Center (WPC). The think tank also provides noteworthy analysis and timely updates.

blog by Jason Mercier is how I learned Mr. Sonntag has been focusing on business regulations to enhance Washington’s economic environment for the creation of jobs. 

Mr. Mercier cites a salient assessment of the state’s regulatory processes in the state auditor’s March 2011 report.

A few highlights:

The complexity of Washington State’s regulatory system creates costs for governments and businesses alike. Not only are there many regulations, but many requirements change every year or two based on new legislation or state agency amendments to existing rules. The Office of the Code Reviser reports that in 2009 alone, state agencies proposed more than 14,000 pages of new or revised rules. 

  • Many regulatory costs to business are fixed, with larger firms able to spread those costs over a greater number of employees, meaning that small businesses bear a disproportionate part of the regulatory burden. A 2007 Department of Revenue study on the business survival rate in Washington found that ‘taxes and costs of complying with government regulations are factors that contribute to business failure because most small businesses are not profitable in the early years.’ (BSSUG, 2007

This is a noteworthy conclusion:

  • Improving the effectiveness of Washington’s regulatory regime through streamlining, clear rule writing, reducing the administrative burden, and other innovations will benefit businesses, state government and taxpayers in general. Clear, fair and efficient regulations will keep Washington competitive in the global economy.”

In his blog, Mr. Mercier indicates we can look forward to five Sonntag performance audits:

  1. Agency efforts to streamline their administrative rules
  2. Agency permit process time
  3. State regulations in excess of federal regulations and the value added for the extra regulation
  4. Agency inspection process and coordination amongst agency inspections
  5. Effectiveness and opportunities for improvement for the state’s one-stop portal for business regulations.

As a result of WPC’s September 2011, the Legislature is getting feedback from small business (What Do Small Business Owners Need from Washington State Policymakers?).

The state’s small businesses want the following:

  1. Review environmental regulations to ensure that Washington rules don’t exceed federal regulations
  2. Legislature should not grant general rule making authority to agencies, but rather be specific about rules to be put in place
  3. Legislature should listen to and follow up on State Auditor Office reports on regulatory reform (tie)
  4. Sunset provisions for regulations (tie)

So a Biz Coach tip of the hat to Mr. Sonntag and his team, as well as to WPC. It’s past time to evolve from an adversarial state government-business relationship to one of effective public policy for economic development.

Frustration is trying to find your glasses without your glasses. 

 __________

Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry. 

Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.