Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Follow The Money

Since American taxpayers lose nearly 50% of our wages -- when you add federal, state, county, city taxes together -- due to the tax burden we suffer in this country we have every right to demand where OUR money is spent. Don't you agree?

Here in the State of Minnesota we had a new law that went into effect in 2007 that requires the state government to create a database/website (aka "Google Government") which would show any interested person where the state spends OUR money. After nearly 1.5 years since this bill became law we tax slaves of Minnesota still do not have a tool that will allow us to follow the money.

After numerous telephone calls and emails -- too many actually in terms of transparency/efficiency for citizens -- with the state Department of Administration , the state legislature, local activists I know, and even some Washington DC groups that track these issues for a career -- I still do not have a good answer that explains why we do not have this database/website operational yet. Today I was told that "yes this is the law but we did not receive any money to pay for the implementation and our consultant told us we need $1 million to $2.5 million to implement this website............"

Wow, that sounds like real money!!

How is it that several states have moved forward with this "Google Government" concept at very low costs but Minnesota needs millions of additional tax dollars to do the same thing? Here are some examples for readers to ponder and for asking your own state governments why they don't have such a website:

http://www.nebraskaspending.com/ -- Nebraska

www.window.state.tx.us/wherethemoneygoes -- Texas

The one encouraging aspect of my last two days of telephone calls and emails is that I found out our local media is very interested in this database project. Historically I have "challenged" far too many journalists to emphasize the "investigative" part of their reporting such as when I read an article about the St. Cloud, Minnesota school district being unable to purchase textbooks due to a lack of funding. No where in the article did you see evidence of the reporter asking some hard questions like -- how much does the school district need for text books and how much does it spend today on automobile allowances for administrators? A classic question since my teacher friends complain this is why they have to purchase equipment for their classrooms with personal money every August. The vital lesson for me is that even though they are un-elected/un-paid by taxpayers our journalists are currently more accountable to taxpayers than many government officials are today. Yet another reason to continue buying newspapers!!

Finally, I need to note that the population of Minnesota is about 4.5 million people while the population of Texas is nearly 17 million YET the Comptroller of Public Accounts for Texas reports that she developed their spending transparency database/website at a total cost of --


So Minnesota needs at least $1 million dollars but the State of Texas did essentially the same thing for only $310,000?

Something is clearly wrong here and further justifies the need for spending transparency in government.



JillB said...

Hey Todd,
Thanks for allowing the Star Tribune editorial board to join you on your quest for database answers. Appreciate the kind shout-out in your nicely written blogatorial.

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Anonymous said...


Once again unelected government officals veto legislation passed by elected officals.

Nice deal, no accountability and gov't benefits for life.

Earth Muffin