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Story Archives: Pull back the curtain
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|Pull back the curtain|
Ask most Louisianians how much any given state agency spends on one area -- say salaries or travel -- and you're likely to get shrugs.
That's because even people who care about public policy don't usually have the time to track down massive agency budgets and dig through them. That's especially hard to do in Louisiana, which lags behind many other states when it comes to giving residents easy access to information on government spending.
That's something Gov. Bobby Jindal and the new Legislature ought to correct.
At the governor's urging, his transition advisory council on government and fiscal reform has produced practical recommendations to improve transparency.
In particular, the group urged pulling back the curtain on how the Legislature approves the state's annual budget by posting on the Internet all budget amendments proposed in the House Appropriations Committee. That's a no-brainer. Only the original bill is posted now, but plenty of pork-barrel spending gets added to the budget through amendments that the public does not see until after the votes have been counted. Even many legislators don't know exactly what's in the budget until after it's approved.
The group also recommended that the state Senate broadcast and archive all its proceedings online as the House now does.
Other recommendations affect the administration. The group urged the governor to require that all state agencies post their budget and expenditures online and that the state issue annual reports online of spending in all state grants. This information should all be in an easy-to-search database much like the one Congress approved for the federal government. Gov. Jindal, who campaigned on improving transparency, should move quickly to implement these proposals.
Many Louisianians have little trust in government, in part because it's hard for them to know where their tax dollars are going. These easy-to-make changes would go a long way in correcting that problem.
-- The Times-Picayune
|Frank Morris Murder Series|