A Step Forward for Gov’t Transparency: Mass Open Checkbook

Want to know how your taxpayer dollars are being spent, down to the last dime? Thanks to a new website launched yesterday, now you can.

The Open Checkbook Project – www.mass.gov/opencheckbook — is an easy-to-use, comprehensive state spending website that includes “checkbook level” detail about spending at all levels of state government: executive, legislative and judiciary.

Increasing transparency in government has been a top priority of mine during my time in office. At a time when we are making massive cuts in every area of our budget, it’s more important than ever that we examine where every single public dollar is going, and what impact it is having. This new transparency tool will promote efficiency, discourage waste, provide a check on corruption, and give us all valuable insight into how our dollars are being spent.

The project is the result of years of work from the Legislature, the Patrick-Murray Administration, Treasurer Steve Grossman, and advocacy groups such as Common Cause and MassPIRG.

Last year, the Legislature passed new transparency and accountability reforms as part of our FY2011 budget. I was proud to be a co-sponsor of the original bill – SB1410, An Act Relative to Transparency in State Revenues and Expenditures – and worked with a team of fellow legislators to see the reforms incorporated into the budget last year. The launch of the Open Checkbook website is a great reminder that it is possible to create change with the actions of just a few individuals — you just have to be persistent, collaborative, and know what you want to change.

In particular, I worked to make sure that information about refundable tax expenditures would be included in this public website. At a time when yet another state budget has made serious cuts to core essential services, it is outrageous that corporate subsidies continue to flow to corporations unexamined and  we don’t have the public information or data to determine if this is the best investment of taxpayer dollars.

Although that information is not yet posted on the website, the details will be included — as required by the initial statute we passed — in the second phase of the website, along with more spending information by quasi public agencies and municipalities.

The website currently includes detailed spending information for:

  • All state agencies who are funded via the state budget
  • Judiciary – courts and departments
  • Legislature
  • Constitutional Offices (Governor, Treasurer, Auditor, Attorney General, Secretary of State)
  • Independent agencies, boards and commissions – Library Commissioners, Comptroller, Campaign Finance, Ethics, Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, Inspector General, etc.
  • District Attorneys (with the exception of FY10 and FY11)
  • Sheriffs
  • Agencies within Executive Branch secretariats (Executive Office of Administration and Finance, Executive Office of Education, etc.)
  • Most Agencies within Massachusetts Department of Transportation (Registry, Highways, Aeronautics, Merit Rating Board)

I hope you’ll check out this new website, and let me know your thoughts!

Even as we celebrate this step forward, there’s always more to do. Just today, we learned that former Governor Romney spent $100,000 in state funds to hide his administration’s records from the public, an outrageous but apparently legal loophole that the Legislature should act quickly to close.

You can learn more about the bills I’ve filed to increase government transparency here in the Commonwealth. Whether it’s increasing public access to information about state spending, promoting transparency and accountability for corporate tax subsidies, or strengthening our public records laws, I’m committed to the work of making our government more transparent and more responsive to the people, as it was meant to be.

1 thought on “A Step Forward for Gov’t Transparency: Mass Open Checkbook

  • Dear Jamie,

    As always, great work. Many thanks for all you do. I was pleased to learn of Gov. Romney’s actions. Let’s hope he is not elected.

    Thanks,

    Mary Haley

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