The nation’s two presumptive major political party candidates for president have joined Sens. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Tom Carper (D-DE) in introducing legislation to enhance a landmark spending transparency measure that became law two years ago.
The Strengthening Accountability and Transparency in Federal Spending Act, backed by expected Republican Party nominee Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and anticipated Democratic Party nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), would codify into law several features voluntarily incorporated into the USAspending.gov spending transparency Web site. It also would make some technical improvements to the earlier law.
Ohio Joins Movement
The push for federal spending transparency is being matched in many states and localities.
In Ohio, HB 420, sponsored by Rep. Tom Brinkman (R-Mount Lookout), passed the state House of Representatives unanimously this spring and is expected to be taken up by the state Senate after the legislature returns following the November 4 elections.
Taxpayers in the Cincinnati area may see even more transparency than their fellow Ohioans. Thanks to an effort led by County Commissioner Pat DeWine (R), the Hamilton County Commission was poised for a June vote to create a searchable online database for county expenditures.
People’s Rights Cited
DeWine unveiled his proposal, the Government Accountability in Spending Project (GASP), at a press conference on May 15.
Joined by representatives from several groups, including Americans for Tax Reform, DeWine said, “The right of the people to be informed about where their tax dollars are going is fundamental. GASP will help to create and preserve the kind of well-informed electorate that is vital to a well-functioning government.”
The county’s largest newspaper, the Cincinnati Enquirer, endorsed the proposal, stating, “the idea of increasing the transparency and accountability of government spending by putting the data online for citizens to see is a very good idea.”
Fellow commissioners David Pepper (D) and Todd Portune (D) also have endorsed the idea, leading DeWine to say he expects it to win approval.
Cincinnati Moves for Transparency
DeWine’s proposal is resonating not only with the public and the media but also with other levels of government. Members of the Cincinnati City Council are proposing similar online databases for city government expenditures.
Explicitly referencing GASP, council member Chris Monzel (R) introduced a motion on May 28 instructing the city manager to “immediately implement a system that will make available, in a searchable database on the city’s Web site, all city expenditures broken down by department as well as aggregate totals.”
Fellow council member Jeff Berding (D) says he has a similar proposal in mind. “Citizens deserve the right to hold their government accountable for the expenditure of their tax dollars. Transparency of government expenditures will reduce waste, fraud, and abuse, as bureaucrats and politicians will be unable to hide shameful spending,” Berding said.
“These expenditures are already online for city hall insiders but hidden from the public. Shining a light on spending through the power of the Internet is a powerful citizen tool, consistent with the best practices of a new ‘Google government’,” Berding concluded
Sandra Fabry (firstname.lastname@example.org) is government affairs manager for Americans for Tax Reform and executive director of the Center for Fiscal Accountability, a new project of Americans for Tax Reform.
For more information …
Americans for Tax Reform is launching the Center for Fiscal Accountability, which seeks to shed light on government expenditures and promote the Jeffersonian principles of fiscal accountability, fiscal restraint, and free-market principles: http://www.fiscalaccountability.org
The federal government’s spending transparency Web site for government contracts, grants, and other awards: http://www.usaspending.gov/
This article was published in Budget & Tax News, a publication of The Heartland Institute.