This week the nation commemorates "Sunshine Week," when we celebrate the annual push for more transparency and openness in government. But, there is a problem. Where is the glitch? Read on...
It is Time to Let the Sunshine in on State Spending Habits
Sunshine Week was begun six years ago in Florida, after legislators there tried to clamp down on information available to the public. Journalists rebelled, and so did the public. I think we need a similar rebellion in Michigan.
Taxpayers want to know why we spend money on things like cable television for prisoners and taxpayer funded lobbyists and frankly, so do I.
Right now, finding these answers is next to impossible. The governor says you can find her office's spending online already, but you'll having better luck finding Jimmy Hoffa's final resting place.
Last summer, House Republicans proposed the Michigan Government Funding Accountability and Transparency Act. Think of it as 'Google Government.'
The FAT Act is modeled on bipartisan legislation passed by Congress and signed into law. Twenty states have already enacted or introduced similar legislation. But the Speaker of the Michigan House, supported by his govenor, has refused to let the legislation out for a hearing.
This spending transparency effort is consistent with the Founding Fathers' notion of accountable government: It was Thomas Jefferson, who once said: "We might hope to see the finances of the Union as clear and intelligible as a merchant's book, so that every member of Congress and every man of any mind in the Union should be able to comprehend them, to investigate abuses, and consequently to control them."
The Democrats say it is too costly to implement transparency. Really? Consider the following:
- The Oklahoma website, which just went live on December 28, 2007 and can be accessed at www.openbooks.ok.gov, initially carried a price tag of $300,000. In the end the implementing agency reported that the website cost only $8,000 plus expended staff time.
- The Missouri Accountability Portal, http://mapyourtaxes.mo.gov an expenditure website created via executive order by Gov. Matt Blunt, was created without the appropriation of a single additional tax dollar.
- Even the federal grant and contract website which was unveiled in December and is accessible at www.USASpending.gov was put together at a price tag of less than $1 million - and that covers grants and contracts of the entire federal government. The software that was used to create the federal site will soon be available as open source software.
Michigan taxpayers deserve and have the right to know how their money is spent and I therefore urge that the governor stop thwarting the effort to provide Michigan citizens with the tool to do so.