When the state budget cutters get to work, one agency that they should spare is the non-partisan watchdog Office of Program Evaluation and Governmental Accountability.

As a recent report on the Maine Turnpike Authority shows, this is an important organization that can save money by introducing hard facts to policy debates.

The MTA study began with questions about why the quasi-governmental entity hasn’t turned over any revenue to the state since 1997. They found that the MTA did not run a surplus during that time but helped the state in other ways.

The study also raised some very interesting issues, detailed above, regarding the conduct of MTA officials at a time when resources are scarce.

OPEGA has conducted a series of similar in-depth studies on a variety topics, from management of the Maine State Prison to the durable medical supplies in the MaineCare program. These studies further legislators’ understanding of the programs they oversee, often providing information that the employees of the program might not want to share.

At a time when every state expenditure is under the microscope, this is a branch of government that will be more necessary than ever.