Monday, June 11, 2007

Opening Up Government To The People

Murphey Legislative Update
12 June 2007

Last week the Governor signed into law Senate Bill 1 (SB-1). I was privileged to co-sponsor this bill and believe it to be one of the most exciting pieces of government reform legislation this year. The Governor signed the bill despite unexpected last minute resistance from the State Chamber of Commerce.

As demonstrated by the pork spending in House Bill 1278 which I referenced in last week's legislative update, one of the biggest obstacles we face in trying to downsize government is finding inefficiencies, inappropriate spending and corruption. Once these are exposed, it will be hard for elected officials to continue to vote to fund unnecessary programs since the public will demand that such funding be discontinued.

The problem we are forced to deal with is that state government spending (now in excess of $7,000,000,000 in state appropriations alone) is not readily exposed to the scrutiny of the people. Even many legislators rarely have direct access to the items on which taxpayer money is spent. Most of the information presented to legislators only concerns requests for new spending, with little oversight over current and past agency spending. You can only imagine the temptation for abuse of public dollars when taxpayers and their elected representatives do not have easy access to how and where money is spent.

As you may recall, SB-1 calls for the creation of the website which will be online by the end of the year and will allow taxpayers to search government expenditures. As the website evolves, it should include easy to use tools which allow taxpayers to track exactly how and where government money is spent. This offers the average citizen much more oversight than legislators currently have. Some of the items to be included online include grants, contracts, subcontracts, tax credits, payments to businesses under the various business incentive laws, as well as expenditures from the Rainy Day Fund.

This idea was initially proposed by state Republican Senator Randy Brogden and Republican State Representative Paul Wesselhoft after a similar concept was initiated by Oklahoma U.S. Senator Tom Coburn and approved at the federal level.

I appreciate the fact that the Governor chose to sign this bill despite opposition to it. In opposing the bill, the State Chamber stated their concerns that the public would find out about tax credits that are granted to private businesses by the state government.

The expenditure of government largess to private entities seems to be taking on a variety of forms. Whether it is through the issuance of tax credits or the direct expenditure of government funds for private organizations, directly from the state treasury, the expansion of "Corporate Welfare" is making it difficult to shrink the size of government. If the Chamber's fears come to fruition, it will be possible for citizens to know exactly how these entities are benefiting off the taxpayer.

I believe SB-1 may, in the end, be the impetus for many spending reforms in state government. But this important tool will only be effective if the people will use it. I encourage everyone to bookmark the site for future reference.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of assistance at 557-7350 or Your feedback is appreciated.

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