STATE AUDITOR Suzanne Bump will leave office in January after 12 years on the job. In an interview on this week’s Codcast, she reflected on her time in office and said it was simply time to move on.
“I’m aging, which should come as no surprise to anyone,” the 62-year-old Bump said. “I love what I’m doing. But is it what I want to be doing for another four years was a critical question that I had to ask myself. Could I continue to bring the same energy, the same spirit of innovation, the same 9 to 5 dedication, plus the weekends and the campaigning? And I just said no, it’s time to let someone else bring a new vision to the auditor’s office.”
When Bump’s husband Paul McDevitt died in 2016, he left her his business, an employee assistance program that offers mental health and substance use counseling. Bump has not been involved in the business during her time as auditor, but said she now plans to take an active role there, in addition to continuing work on several nonprofit boards.
Bump will be replaced by state Sen. Diana DiZoglio, who was not Bump’s first choice for the job. In the Democratic primary, Bump endorsed DiZoglio’s opponent, Chris Dempsey, although Bump, a Democrat, did endorse DiZoglio in the general election. DiZoglio made a central platform of her campaign her interest in auditing the state Legislature, but Bump made clear publicly that the auditor did not have that authority.
Asked whether DiZoglio understands the job she is taking in light of that dispute, Bump said, “She is being very well schooled in the abilities of the office, of hurdles that she might have to overcome in order to achieve some of her objectives on that particular point.”
“Frankly, I entered the auditor’s office thinking that I could audit the Legislature and I quickly learned otherwise,” Bump added.
Bump said one thing she has learned in her years on the job is just how poor agencies are at policing themselves. She said she is continually surprised that state government “is so bad at making use of the information that it collects in order to assess its performance on an ongoing basis.” For example, she cited an audit of an agency that has contracts with vendors but fails to assess the performance of those vendors. She said she sees that type of lapse regularly across state government.
“I don’t think that it is due to just a lax attitude, but rather that it’s the result primarily of a failure of state government to invest in the people that are necessary to do this kind of oversight,” Bump said.
One of Bump’s major initiatives in office has been to publish reports that point out regional inequities in Massachusetts – like a lack of adequate state funding for regional school transportation or to compensate communities for state-owned land. She said some of that commitment stemmed from her time owning a home in Great Barrington and seeing the decline in the region’s commercial and industrial base.
“It really showed me that there indeed is an East-West divide,” Bump said. “It’s hard to get in Boston any news about what’s going on in western Mass and vice versa….So it’s easy for folks in Boston to not think about Western Mass and how different it is. And if folks in general aren’t thinking about it, then legislators aren’t necessarily thinking about it.”
Bump was also one of the first in state government to point out inadequacies in the state’s police training in a 2019 report. Spurred by incidents of racially biased policing nationally, the Legislature passed a police reform bill in 2020 that established a new commission to oversee police standards and training. Bump said she has seen a “sea change” in police training since that bill went into effect.
“There’s been a total transformation in the facilities that are available, in the types of training,” Bump said. “They now have state police training alongside municipal police, campus police, hospital police…. It is astonishing to see the progress that has been made.”
One recent controversy where Bump played a role was in the 62F tax rebates. Bump certified that the state took in enough excess revenue – an extra $2.9 billion – to trigger a 1986 law that required money to be returned to taxpayers. But the liberal-leaning Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center said this figure was overstated by $1.4 billion, because that amount was collected from owners of pass-through businesses as part of a workaround to a federal tax law, in which the money will be refunded back to them in future years through tax credits.
Bump said she understands the policy argument, but any change to the statute needs to be made by the Legislature. She says she did not have authority to redefine what counts as revenue under the tax cap. “Revenue is revenue, whether it’s here to stay, whether it’s permanent revenue, or whether it’s going to have to be rebated in some form in the future,” Bump said. “It was taken in and I had to count what was taken in.”