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The six member legislative conference committee on the FY 2010 state budget failed to include the adoption of a fully transparent, easy to use, comprehensive state budget website in their final budget. The amendment had been unanimously adopted as part of the Senate budget passed in May.
“Budget transparency is a fundamental and long overdue reform which would have increased efficiency, accountability and confidence in our state government,” said Deirdre Cummings, Legislative Director for MASSPIRG. “The Committee’s decision is a missed opportunity in promoting government transparency.”
The Budget Transparency website amendment would have directed the Secretary of Administration and Finance to create and maintain a searchable website detailing the costs, recipients, and purposes for all appropriations, including contracts, grants, subcontracts, tax expenditures and other subsidies funded by the state government. The database would include state revenue sources and expenses including the “quasi-public” agencies, and the web portal would have been accessible to the public and updated on a regular basis.
“We hope the Budget Website bills, SB1410 and HB 2972, currently pending in the legislature will be taken up quickly as we know these reforms are necessary to improving government accountability,” concluded Cummings.
In the private sector, internet search technology has revolutionized the accessibility and transparency of information. We take for granted the ability to track deliveries online, to check cell phone minutes and compare real estate on the Web, even to summon – at the click of a mouse – satellite and street-level views of any address. But until recently, when it came to tracking government expenditures online, we were left in the dark.
At least 23 states currently mandate that citizens be able to access a searchable online database of government expenditures. These states have come to define “Transparency 2.0” – a new standard of comprehensive, one-stop, one-click budget accountability and accessibility.
Massachusetts has only barely begun to take full advantage of the benefits of online transparency for tracking government revenue and expenditures. While the current budget website now provides citizens with a view of some department appropriations, it is incomplete and not easily searchable.
Comprehensive: User-friendly web portal provides citizens the ability to search detailed information about government contracts, spending, subsidies, tax expenditures and revenue.
One-Stop: Citizens can search all government revenue and expenditures on a single website.
One-Click Searchable: Citizens can search data with a single query or browse common-sense categories. Citizens can sort data on government spending by recipient, amount, legislative district, granting agency, purpose, or keyword.
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