Bill Would Establish State Public Finance Web Site, Give Taxpayers Access to Spending Records
TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Richard J. Codey – the “Transparency in Government Act” – to create a single, searchable Internet Web site that retains and displays comprehensive fiscal data and information for State, county and local governments and State authorities was unanimously approved by the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation committee yesterday.
“The taxpayers of New Jersey deserve an accounting of all public money being spent, whether it’s on the State level or the local level,” said Senator Codey, D-Essex. “Through this bill, they’ll have a one-stop shop to find information about public finances in the Garden State. This will make New Jersey a national leader in public finance transparency, and will hopefully be a model for other states to follow.”
The bill, S-708, sponsored along with Senator Joseph Pennacchio, R-Morris and Passaic, would establish a single, searchable Internet Web site that would include retroactive data from fiscal year 2000 to the present fiscal year. If enacted, New Jersey would join a short list of other states that have taken advantage of the Internet to increase fiscal accountability, such as Missouri, Texas and Alaska.
The bill would direct the State Treasurer and the Chief Technology Officer to design and develop this public finance Web site and require the Treasurer to maintain and operate the site every fiscal year. In order to ensure the integrity of the Web site, the bill would allow data or information posted to be periodically updated, but no data or information already posted on the site could ever be removed. However, the bill would prohibit the posting of any data that might be deemed private, personal, or confidential.
“Government openness and transparency is the best way to ensure against waste and abuse of the taxpayer’s trust,” said Senator Codey. “By including all levels of government in this legislation, we’re raising the bar for transparency in government, and giving the public a new level of access to spending records. This bill will give the taxpaying public the tools and information to account for every last cent of tax revenues and expenditures and public indebtedness.”
The bill would permit the following information to be made accessible to the public no later than 45 days following the close of each fiscal year: disbursements by a state agency, receipts and deposits by any state agency, agency earnings, annual state bonded indebtedness, bond debt services, salaries and wages, contractual service purchases, capital outlay and improvements, aid to local units of government, annual state revenues, taxes, revenue for the use of money and property, gifts, donations, and federal grants.
The bill was amended in Committee to direct government officials within local and county government, as well as on the various boards, agencies and authorities which are publicly funded, to work with the State Treasurer to provide a complete picture of public financing in the State of New Jersey.
The bill now heads to the full Senate for approval. Should it become law, the state would be required to begin creation of the Web site by July 1, 2011, the start of the FY 2012 fiscal year.