May 17, 2023 - Politics

Spill of the Hill: Spilka, DiZoglio clash over Legislature audit

Photo illustration of auditor Diana DiZoglio with lines emanating from her.

State Auditor Diana DiZoglio. Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images

A political feud between Massachusetts Senate President Karen Spilka and Auditor Diana DiZoglio is spilling out of the hallways of Beacon Hill into public view.

What’s happening: DiZoglio told Axios that Spilka and Senate leaders have "made it very clear" they're using the Legislature's control over the state budget to retaliate against the auditor's office for attempting to look into the House and Senate books.

  • The feud between DiZoglio, one of the state's top elected Democrats, and her former Senate colleagues, could involve taxpayer funds.

Why it matters: It's a rare example of a spotlight being shown on turmoil within the ranks of the Democratic Party that controls almost all aspects of state government.

Context: The spending proposal released by Senate budget writers last week increased DiZoglio's office budget by just 1.4% for the coming fiscal year compared to the nearly 17% increase that Gov. Healey proposed and the House approved.

  • In an inflating economy, the Senate leaders' proposed $315,454 boost could mean fewer audits next year or even layoffs at the auditor's office.
  • The House and Senate will need to compromise on a final figure.

The other side: A senate spokesperson would not comment on the accusation of retaliation.

  • A Spilka aide told Axios that budget recommendations are based on merit. The aide said a 1% increase would be considered in line with the rest of the budget's roughly 6-9% increase overall since some line items receive increases and others don't.
  • DiZoglio told Axios her staff met with Senate budget officials but she did not make a personal appeal to Senate leaders to secure funding the way most state agency heads do.

Catch up quick: DiZoglio won the auditor's office in part by vowing to look into the books of the House and Senate who undergo their own outside audits each year.

  • Lawmakers maintain DiZoglio’s office doesn’t have the authority to look into the Legislature — a claim DiZoglio’s predecessor agreed with.

What to watch: DiZoglio said she's looking at legal options to bring the chambers to court and force an audit.

Between the lines: There has been no love lost between Spilka and DiZoglio since the latter's elevation from the Senate to the auditor's office last year.

  • Before she got to the Senate in 2019, DiZoglio had been a thorn in the side of House leaders for challenging the chamber's use of nondisclosure agreements.
  • Spilka was then quick to endorse DiZoglio's Democratic primary opponent Chris Dempsey before last year's election.

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