In Ohio, residents who want to find out what their government is doing with their money can go online and find out.
While that seems like a simple achievement, it is not a reality here in Louisiana.
If you want to know more about what the state or local government is doing with your tax dollars, the process is needlessly complicated and amounts to an incentive not to look.
That is a shame. But at least one statewide official has embraced the goal of creating an Ohio-inspired system of public information sharing right here in Louisiana.
Newly elected Treasurer John Schroder has promised to champion a system similar to the Ohio Checkbook, the name given to that state’s online search database. In Ohio’s case, it took about $800,000 and two years to implement the program, whose main focus in public transparency and accountability.
Those are worthwhile goals, and they should be embraced by public officials who want the electorate to be informed about the state’s business.
“Money and funding is obviously a challenge, but a transparent portal into spending could generate savings for us,” Schroder recently told Jeremy Alford with Lapolitics.com. “People’s activities change when you make things more transparent.”
And that is the essence of the argument. If state and local officials know that their decisions will be open to public scrutiny because they will be more readily discovered, those same public servants are likely to exercise much more caution and discretion over the use of our money.
It just makes sense. Why would we want a system that makes public inquiry more difficult when an easier way of doing things is available at such a modest price.
Schroder’s idea has been supported by various groups, and the notion of making public information easier to find is difficult to oppose.
Still, the challenge will come in gaining the political traction necessary to make this improvement a reality for Louisiana.
Our state is facing severe fiscal challenges, which were brought on and worsened by years of neglect. Now, as we struggle to balance our books against yet another looming “crisis,” our state’s political officials would be wise to put into place a system that will enhance public scrutiny and encourage the ideas criticisms that could lead to unforeseen savings.
The question, in fact, isn’t why Louisiana should implement such a system. The question is why anyone would refuse to endorse the notion and work toward a better way of doing business.
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