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Support a Spending Transparency Website; Vote Yes on House Bill 15!
An Open Letter to the Pennsylvania State Senate
February 10, 2011
On behalf of the National Taxpayers Union’s more than 17,000 members in Pennsylvania, I urge you to follow the lead of the House of Representatives and support House Bill 15, which would establish a publicly accessible website maintained by the Treasurer that details state spending, including all expenditures by the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. HB 15 passed the House of Representatives yesterday by a vote of 197-0. Through more transparency, Pennsylvania can improve accountability and find ways to save taxpayer dollars in a time of tight budgets.
Currently, only limited information about state spending is available to taxpayers. Moreover, the information resides in different locations, is incomplete, and can be time-consuming to obtain. House Bill 15 would centralize state spending information, making it more easily accessible to citizens. Transparency will improve accountability, oversight, and civic engagement by enabling Pennsylvania residents to evaluate Harrisburg’s spending decisions.
Additionally, transparency can help states find significant savings in their budgets. More transparency allows taxpayers to explore the performance of government programs and uncover wasteful, ineffective uses of taxpayer dollars. Greater transparency will enable the Commonwealth to get better deals in contracting because vendors can more effectively compete for bids and offer better prices. A transparency initiative in Texas yielded almost $5 million in savings, while Missouri’s transparency website led early on to the reevaluation of $1.5 million in spending.
At least 26 state legislatures have joined the U.S. Congress in passing laws to create spending transparency websites. In at least another 11 states, governors have created such websites through executive order. It is time for Pennsylvania to provide taxpayers with the information they need and deserve. Therefore, I urge you to support House Bill 15 and put state spending information online.