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Taxpayer Group Gives Texas-Sized Cheer for State's Spending Transparency Legislation

by Pete Sepp / /

(Alexandria, VA) -- By recently enacting a bill to open government spending to public scrutiny through the Internet, the State Legislature and Governor Rick Perry have made Texas the fourth state to embrace "Google Government" -- a move that drew praise from the National Taxpayers Union (NTU). The non-partisan citizen group, which has 362,000 members nationwide and nearly 23,000 members in Texas, has been advocating "spending transparency" on the federal and state level for several years.

House Bill 3430, introduced by State Representative Mark Strama, will create a searchable, public website that will disclose virtually all state spending. This site will allow Texas taxpayers to log on, browse, and come to their own conclusions about the state's spending priorities. This transparency is vital to creating accountability in state government.

"Thanks to the efforts of Representative Strama and Governor Perry, reform is coming to the halls of government in Austin," said NTU Government Affairs Manager Andrew Moylan. "These tools to evaluate spending programs can build more honest and responsible budgeting."

The Texas plan is modeled after last year's legislation on the federal level to construct a grant and contract database. The bill, cosponsored by Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Barack Obama (D-IL), ordered the U.S. Office of Management and Budget to establish an Internet destination for the general public to track the flow of federal disbursements.

However, the Texas website will include data on more than just grants and contracts. Though some states have limited disclosure, Texas is part of an expanding group that has the type of cohesive, comprehensive database that will be the most useful to citizens. Others that have taken this path include Kansas, Minnesota, and Oklahoma.

NTU is one of several organizations to have launched the "Show Me the Spending" coalition earlier in the year, which is dedicated to passing similar legislation in all 50 states. The 21-group coalition, located at www.showmethespending.org, has state-by-state legislative updates, model bill language, and further research and commentary on the issue.

"The Lone Star State is not alone in joining the movement for government transparency, but there are dozens of other states in the country that ought to pass similar legislation," Moylan concluded. "This is not about political affiliation, this is about public access to the information citizens need to participate in a reasonable debate about priorities."

Note: For further details on the "Google Government" movement, visit www.showmethespending.org or www.ntu.org.

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