California is dead last in terms of the transparency of its government spending.
This is according to a 2016 report by the California Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, who ranked each state according to how easy it is to find information about state money online.
A group of Republican California Assembly members are taking this ranking seriously and want to change it with the Budget Transparency Act of 2017 – which would require the entire California state budget to be posted in an online database for the public to view.
“California spends hundreds of billions of dollars every year, and yet our state was ranked dead last nationally in budget transparency. That is inexcusable,” Assemblyman Tom Lackey said in a statement to The Signal.
If the legislation is passed, the California website would list all state expenditures, including the name of the department spending the money, the recipient, the budget program, the amount, the type of expenditure and a description.
The bill’s language emphasizes a desire for the site to be “interactive, searchable and regularly updated.”
California’s site would allow the public to filter, search and aggregate data. Also, it would let users create graphs and charts and download the information.
Assembly Bill 6 was brought about by legislators in June, the same month California’s $125 billion budget was passed.
This format allows for a line-item search of every aspect of the state budget, including information as specific as how much is spent on a governor’s travel each year.
“This will give Californians access to the data they need to hold elected officials accountable for their spending habits,” Lackey said.
“The public should be able to easily see where their money is going and this bill would make sure that they can.”
The legislators are drawing inspiration from Ohio’s online format. The state was listed first in budget transparency in the research group’s report.
In fact, Ohio used a California-based technology company for their website, Assemblyman Vince Fong cited in a statement.
California is the technology capital of the world and as such we should be a leader in having a state budget that is fully transparent, searchable and interactive,” Assemblyman Jay Obernolte said in a statement.
“It’s critical that our constituents have access to our spending decisions in order to keep the legislature accountable.”
According to Assemblyman Lackey’s office, the bill is looking to gain bipartisan support.
Within the next few weeks, Assembly Bill 6 will go before a policy committee for a hearing.
The Budget Transparency Act of 2017 is a collaboration between Assembly members Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale), Jay Obernolte (R-Big Bear) and Vince Fong (R-Kern County).
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