(Alexandria, VA) -- Minnesota's decision to create an easy-to-use website containing state grant and contract spending information has put it in the growing community of states employing transparent budget practices, says the 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU). NTU is one of the founding members of the "Show Me the Spending" coalition, which was formed earlier this year to advocate for searchable online spending databases in every state. NTU has over 7,000 members in Minnesota.
Earlier in 2007 State Senator Ann Rest and State Representative Erik Paulsen introduced legislation to create a searchable database containing information on state contracts and grants valued at over $25,000. Their bill was later included in the State Government Omnibus Bill, which Governor Tim Pawlenty signed into law in late May. The new "Google-Government" website, which will start to publish information in 2008, will allow taxpayers to log on, browse, and make their own evaluations of Minnesota's budget priorities. In 2005, the state awarded almost $1 billion in grants to approximately 1,900 nonprofit entities.
"Thanks to Senator Rest and Representative Paulsen, Minnesota residents will soon be a few key strokes away from finding out where their tax dollars end up and for what purposes," said Kristina Rasmussen, NTU's Director of Government Affairs. "This legislation is especially timely considering the Legislative Auditor's recent report that highlighted problems with the state's approach to managing grants to nonprofit organizations."
The Minnesota plan is modeled after last year's legislation on the federal level to build 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 construct a website for the general public to track the flow of federal grant and contract disbursements. Though some states have limited disclosure, Minnesota joins Kansas as among the first to create the type of accessible database that will be the most useful to citizens. Others that may soon follow are Oklahoma, Hawaii, and Texas, to name a few.
NTU is one of several organizations to have recently launched the "Show Me the Spending" coalition, which is dedicated to passing similar legislation in all 50 states. The coalition, located at www.showmethespending.org, has state-by-state legislative updates, model bill language, and further research and commentary on the issue.
"That's two states down and 48 to go," Rasmussen concluded. "Every state in the country ought to pass similar plans. Accountable government is not a left or right issue, but a right or wrong issue. The citizens who pay government's bills deserve to know where their money is going, in order to have an informed debate about where it should head in the future."