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Codey ‘Transparency In Government Act’ Approved

Measure Would Allow Taxpayers Easy 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 approved by the Senate today by a vote of 28-4.

“The taxpayers of New Jersey deserve unfettered, unrestricted access to information about how their government spends their money – whether it’s municipal, county, or State government,” said Senator Codey, D-Essex. “The public’s business cannot be conducted in the dark, and the best disinfectant to guard against government corruption is public scrutiny. This bill would finally open up all government spending records for public review in New Jersey.”

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.

“The Internet can be a great tool for public transparency and accountability,” said Senator Codey. “The Web has become such a huge part of everyday life, and it’s time for State, county and local government in New Jersey to get with the times. You can pay your bills online, you can order take-out online – it’s time for New Jersey residents to be able to monitor government spending online too.”

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 Assembly for consideration, before going to the Governor to be signed into law. Should it become law, the State would be required to have the Web site created by July 1, 2011, the start of the FY 2012 fiscal year.

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