You may remember last year one of our priority areas of legislation was government spending transparency. After two years of persistence, Virginia now is in the process of creating more windows and letting in more sunshine to the way it spends the hard earned money we send them, thanks to bills patroned by Delegate Ben Cline (R-24, Amherst) and then-Senator Ken Cuccinelli.
But the issue hasn’t gone away because to have true government by the people and for the people, the people must be given every tool to monitor its own government’s operations. This session, two very good bills were introduced. One, HB 62, patroned by Delegate David Toscano (D-57, Charlottesville), would have added transparency to the budget making process. Unfortunately, it was left in the House Appropriations Committee where it died, having never received a hearing.
The other bill, SB 431, patroned by Senator Mark Herring (D-33, Leesburg), would fill in some gaps in the laws written by Cline and Cuccinelli. Although the bill as originally crafted had a lot more to it — it was pared down due to the inevitable Fiscal Impact Statement — it retains two important provisions: That each agency post online all checks and credit card purchases it makes, including the vendor name, date of purchase and purchase description. It also stipulates that each agency install an icon on its Web site that links directly to a page on Commonwealth DataPoint, the state’s window on government spending and accountability. In an editorial yesterday in the Loudon Independent, called “Checking the Checkbook,” the paper wrote:
A bill is being reviewed by the House of Delegates that could shed light on the age-old question, “Why does government spend so much?” For those with a bit more innate trust in government, the question could also be, “Where are my tax dollars going?”
We agree. Making it easier to find and locate government spending has numerous benefits, among them that the more eyes looking into how bureaucrats spend out money, the more chances we have of saving it by catching waste and eliminating it. That’s something lawmakers should embrace anytime, not to mention these challenging times. Currently, the bill sits in the Appropriations Technology Oversight and Government Activities Sub-committee, although a hearing date is not scheduled. However, we are hopeful one is in the works and look forward to supporting it once it’s scheduled.