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Senate Panel Approves Codey Bill To Increase Fiscal Accountability, Transparency

“Transparency in Government Act” Would Bring State Into the Internet Age By Making Revenue & Finances Available to the Public Online

TRENTON – The Senate State Government Committee today approved the “Transparency in Government Act,” a bill sponsored by Senate President Richard J. Codey that would, for the first time, make data and information on the state’s annual revenues, expenditures, and total bonded debt available on the Internet.

“This Web site will go a long way towards empowering the public and increasing government accountability,” said Sen. Codey (D-Essex). “Taxpayers are entitled to know that their money is being spent wisely.”

Bill S445 calls for the creation of a single, searchable Internet Web site that would include retroactive data from fiscal year 2000 to the present fiscal year. Should the bill become law, 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 directs the State Treasurer and the Chief Technology Officer to design and develop this public finance website and requires 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 could be removed. However, the bill would prohibit the posting of any data that might be deemed private, personal, or confidential.

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, aide to local units of government, annual state revenues, taxes, revenue for the use of money and property, gifts, donations, and federal grants.

Under the bill, a nine-member Public Finance Transparency Committee would be established within the Department of the Treasury to facilitate the organization, development, and maintenance of the website. The committee would be comprised of:

a) the State Treasurer;

b) the Chief Technology Officer;

c) the Director of the Division of Budget and Accounting in the Department of the Treasury;

d) two cabinet-level officers appointed by the Governor;

e) four public members.

The committee would have the authority to hold meetings, convene hearings, and publish reports. The committee would also be permitted to advise, consult, and coordinate with the Treasurer and Chief Technology Officer to improve and expand upon the scope, content, and format of the public finance website.

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.

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