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Governor, treasurer tout information transparency

Governor, treasurer tout information transparency

November 1st, 2018 by Bob Watson in News

Eric Schmitt

Photo by News Tribune /News Tribune.

Gov. Mike Parson and state Treasurer Eric Schmitt want more Missourians to know how their tax money is being spent.

"Throughout my career, I have always stressed the importance of keeping taxpayers informed about where their hard-earned money is going," Parson told reporters at a Wednesday morning news conference in his Capitol office.

"Every Missourian has the right to know how state government is using their tax dollars," he said.

Parson noted the Office of Administration's new "Budget Explorer" website, oa.mo.gov/budget-explorer — launched in October — is "a user-friendly overview of the state's $28 billion budget."

While the Budget Explorer website focuses "on the big picture," the governor said, the treasurer's website, treasurer.mo.gov/showmecheckbook/expenditures, is a "perfect partner" and a "valuable resource for finding detailed information about Missourians' year-to-date spending, revenues, liabilities and cash flow."

Schmitt told reporters, when he took office in January 2017, "Missouri had a D-Plus rating for fiscal transparency — we were ranked 39th out of 50 states as far as what taxpayers could go to online and actually find out about how their state government was spending their money."

His staff developed the Show Me Checkbook website and launched it for public use Aug. 21.

"We have nearly 30 million data points," Schmitt said. "You can find out sources of revenue, how we spend the money on expenditures, liabilities. You can see payroll.

"What used to take freedom of information requests (and) multiple websites to try to piece together what was actually happening — it's all in one place right now."

Schmitt noted the state's first accountability portal, mapyourtaxes.mo.gov, was launched in 2007 by the Matt Blunt administration, when "Netflix was still delivering DVDs by mail."

State Budget Director Dan Haug said the two sites provide similar information, but in different ways.

"What we try to do is make it very easy for the average citizen, who isn't really into budgets, to understand what's going on," Haug said. "I think the treasurer's (site) has the really detailed information, where you can dig-down.

"Our site is a little more just sort of big-picture, graphical — we have charts that show you how much each department is getting, what percentage of the budget each department (has)."

Parson said Missouri residents "shouldn't have to be budget experts to find up-to-date information, including the state's sources of revenues; (money) that's been appropriated but not spent (yet); and how funds are allocated among the departments, elected officials, legislators the courts and, even, the governor's office."

Missouri government's 16 departments have been given performance goals to be reached, and — beginning next February or March — OA's Budget Explorer website will report on how those performance goals are being met.

"This is a common sense, back-to-basics management," Parson said. "For more than a decade, we haven't taken a hard look at providing Missourians the transparency they deserve."

Both sites were developed at a minimal cost.

Haug said the OA site was created by existing IT and budget staff members.

Schmitt said: "Other states where treasurers have taken this on have literally spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to do it. We did it for less than $2,000, including (buying) a couple of licenses."