NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

CREATING A FREE, SEARCHABLE WEBSITE OF STATE SPENDING

December 21, 2007

Considering Washington lawmakers will spend about $71 billion over the next two years, taxpayers should be able to get answers quickly and conveniently about how and where their money is spent.  This is especially true since modern technology makes accessing large amounts of information easier than ever.  Unfortunately, the opportunity to learn these answers is currently limited and difficult to achieve, says the Washington Policy Center.

Fortunately, things are beginning to change:

  • Last year President Bush signed the bipartisan Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act; the Act was co-sponsored by senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Barack Obama (D-IL) and passed Congress unanimously.
  • The new law creates a free, easy-to-use, searchable, Google-type web site that allows citizens to track the recipients of all federal funds. 
  • The privacy of individuals is protected; for example, one cannot look up how much Social Security someone receives monthly.
  • Similar proposals have been introduced as bills in the legislatures of other states, including Washington.

States are also getting into the action:

  • Recently the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a nonpartisan association of state legislators, adopted model legislation to implement state versions of the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act. 
  • ALEC also adopted a model bill to require that the public have at least 72 hours to review tax and spending bills before they are voted on. 
  • Many states are already moving forward with this type of reform, including: Hawaii, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Minnesota, South Carolina, Missouri and Texas.

A free, searchable budget transparency website will not cure all budget problems, but it would go a long way toward preventing waste and improving government performance.

Source: Jason Mercier, "Creating a Free, Searchable Website of State Spending," December 2007.

 

Browse more articles on Tax and Spending Issues