It’s always popular for candidates to say that they want government to run more like a business.

But sometimes it’s nice when government runs more like government, or at least how government is supposed to run.

In the case of the Maine Turnpike Authority, a quasi-govermental agency that was created by the Legislature but is run by its appointed board, that hasn’t always happened.

The 100-mile Maine Turnpike is operated entirely with toll revenue, much of it coming from out-of-state visitors, so the MTA has been immune to many of the pressures felt by other agencies in state government.

That has led to an apparent looseness about spending that would never be tolerated at agencies in which taxpayers are footing the bill.

That changed this year, when a government watchdog group documented excesses in the distribution of gift cards, charitable donations and lobbying expenses.

The furor led to the resignation of longtime Executive Director Paul Violette and a legislative investigation. The first sign of change came this week when Violette’s replacement, Peter Mills, canceled an annual employee recognition banquet that would have cost up to $19,000.

The point is not that MTA employees are undeserving of recognition. But it’s time that people in charge remember that they are spending the public’s money, and they shouldn’t act as if it was their own.


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