(Alexandria, VA) -- Oklahoma's decision to create a state spending Internet database -- along the same lines of a proposal championed at the federal level by Oklahoma's junior Senator -- is a bold step to empower taxpayers, 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 4,700 members in Oklahoma.
The "Taxpayer Transparency Act" unanimously passed the Oklahoma State Legislature in late May and was signed into law by Governor Brad Henry on Monday. The new "Google-Government" website, set to go online by January 1, 2008, will allow taxpayers to log on, browse, and make their own evaluations of Oklahoma's budget priorities.
"Thanks to events in Oklahoma, we now know that making state spending information available to the public is an affordable goal as well as a worthy one," said Kristina Rasmussen, NTU's Director of Government Affairs. "Opponents of transparency legislation in other states have tried to use cost as a reason to stop these bills in their tracks, but Oklahoma's Office of State Finance estimates that implementing the website comes with a $300,000 price tag. If opening up the books results in erasing even a small amount of wasteful spending, that is money well spent."
The Oklahoma 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 an Internet destination for the general public to track the flow of federal grant and contract disbursements.
The Oklahoma website, however, will include data on all state government expenditures, not just contracts and grants. Though some states have limited disclosure, Oklahoma joins Kansas and Minnesota as among the first to create the type of cohesive, comprehensive database that will be the most useful to citizens. Others that may soon follow are 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.
"That's three states down and 47 to go," Rasmussen concluded. "Every state in the country ought to pass similar plans. 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."