Wednesday, August 1, 2007

House GOP: Show Taxpayers the Money

House GOP: Show Taxpayers the Money
Lawmakers call for accountability in government spending

How much money does the state spend each year on road repair?  What about new computer software or cell phones? If taxpayers knew a state employee could approve an increase in a state contract in the last three weeks for over $10 million dollars, with no apparent oversight, would they be unhappy?  This is exactly the type of information House Republicans think taxpayers have a right to know.

The House GOP today announced the Michigan Government Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, or FAT Act, to create a public, searchable Web site that lists all spending by state government, including public schools, universities and community colleges.  The announcement comes amid the ongoing budget battle between Democrats who insist the state must raise taxes and Republicans who want to reform government and cut waste.

"Lansing needs to be more careful about how they spend taxpayer money," said Jack Hoogendyk, R-Texas Township. "Knowing that they would have to account for every expenditure will make government bureaucrats think twice before approving change orders to an existing contract that expands it from $5.5 million to $200 million with little or no accountability. In tight budgetary times, working families and small businesses know where every dollar is spent. They deserve to know where every one of their tax dollars are going as well,"      

"As we talk more and more about reforms and cost savings in government, it's becoming important that taxpayers know exactly how their hard-earned dollars are being spent," said Kim Meltzer, R-Clinton Township. "With full disclosure of budget expenses to the public, government and school districts will be more apt to be held accountable for spending - meaning more money for taxpayer priorities, not bureaucracy."

The FAT Act plan is modeled on bipartisan federal legislation passed by Congress and signed into law last year.

"By posting state-spending information, taxpayers will know whether their hard-earned dollars are used in a way that is responsible.  This will make government more efficient by exposing waste," said Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba. If signed into law, this legislation will provide another tool for citizens to hold government accountable for out-of-control spending.

In addition to the state government Web site, universities, community colleges and public school districts and academies will be required to post on their Web sites a report detailing budget expenses for the proceeding school year.

"A transparent government is compelled to be an honest one," said Fran Amos, R-Waterford. "The current budget crisis is a direct result of a serious government overspending problem, and the education of our young members of society should not be affected by politics. Your tax dollars should be going to your children's education, period.  And you deserve to know if that is, in fact, how your money is being spent."

The package also eliminates the loophole in the Intermediate School District reporting requirements that exempts them from reporting lobbying and other activities by ISD employees.

"The Democrats keep saying we need to raise taxes - but how is the average citizen supposed to know if that is true when they don't even have a way to see what the government is spending?" asked Dan Acciavatti, R-Chesterfield Township.  "With the FAT Act, taxpayers will be able to see precisely how our tax dollars are spent, and then decide for themselves if government is as lean as it can be or if there is room for improvement."

Amy Hagerstrom, of Americans for Prosperity, agreed. "Taxpayers don't have access to what their money is being spent on," Hagerstrom said. "But they deserve to know where the money is going. As technology improves daily, there is no good reason taxpayers shouldn't have this information at their fingertips."


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