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Taxpayer Group: Colorado Lacks State Spending "Transparency" Despite Executive Order

by Pete Sepp, Rachael Slobodien / /

(Alexandria, VA) -- Taxpayers in Colorado deserve more than a half-hearted attempt at spending transparency, but that is what they got when Governor Bill Ritter (D) recently unveiled the Transparency Online Portal[System], or TOPS. According to the 362,000- member National Taxpayers Union (NTU), which has more than 7,300 members in Colorado, the Governor's website fails to follow the mandate of recently enacted legislation to open government expenditures and revenues to the public.

An evaluation of TOPS from NTU State Policy Analyst Kristine Tuinstra determined that the Governor's initiative includes too few details and context necessary for the government spending data to serve any purpose. She gave three reasons taxpayers should be skeptical of the website:

1). It has no substance. The TOPS does not provide taxpayers with access to detailed individual transactions in many places, furnishing access only to aggregated information. Revealing details is the entire purpose of transparency, and without it, taxpayers are kept in the dark about where their money is being spent and agencies can continue to hide behind a veil of fiscal secrecy.

2). It violates the spirit of the legislation. It appeared that transparency arrived in Colorado after Gov. Ritter signed Rep. BJ Nikkell's HB 1288 into law. Yet, the Governor's interpretation of the bill falls far short of its intended purpose. Either he doesn't understand the importance of the transparency, or he adamantly opposes the idea and simply feigns interest for political gain.

3). It confirms that Bill Ritter is an anti-accountability Governor. This is not the first time the Governor has worked to dilute transparency efforts. He previously attempted to pre-empt HB 1288 with a weaker Executive Order. After relenting and signing the original bill, he's at it again, unveiling a weak and ineffective TOPS. Gov. Ritter seems to be all words and no deeds when it comes to allowing Coloradans to hold their government accountable.

Complete and accurate information is the best antidote to the spin and misinformation that has become far too commonplace in Colorado today Tuinstra concluded. "Citizens deserve to be well-informed on where their hard-earned dollars are going."

NTU is a nonpartisan nonprofit citizen organization founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes limited government and economic freedom at all levels. Two years ago the group co-founded the "Show Me the Spending" coalition to promote fiscal transparency initiatives which are now implemented or underway in nearly half the states. Note: For more information visit www.ntu.org.

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