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Weinberg: Time For Government To ‘Let The Sun Shine In’

Says Comptroller’s Report ‘Reveals What We Already Knew, that Independent Authorities are Shirking Their Responsibility to Transparency’

TRENTON – State Senator Loretta Weinberg, the sponsor of bills which would require all government agencies to comply with the State’s Open Public Records and Meetings Acts and post financial information on the World Wide Web, issued the following statement today regarding the State Comptroller’s report that billions of dollars are spent each year through independent authorities with little accountability or transparency:

“The Comptroller’s report released today documents what we already knew: that many of the State’s independent local and regional authorities and agencies are shirking their responsibility to transparency. These agencies have acted with little to no accountability of spending and indebtedness and have contributed to the sky-high cost of government in the Garden State.

“In 2007, I lamented about the lack of transparency and accountability in the independent authorities operating throughout the State. This layer of shadow government spends taxpayer dollars in secret, with little oversight or public scrutiny, and inflates the cost of living on the rest of us. Four years later, these problems still exist.

“It’s time that we give New Jerseyans the tools they need to rein in the cost of government, and root out waste, fraud and abuse of the taxpayer’s trust, wherever it might rear its ugly head.

“I’ve sponsored bills to require all public agencies funded by taxpayer dollars which are operating in New Jersey to follow the tenets of the State’s Open Public Records Act and Open Public Meetings Act. In addition, public agencies would be required to comply with the realities of life in the Internet Age – that important financial information should not only be disclosed upon request, but should also be readily available on the Web. By requiring all publicly-funded organizations to follow the letter and spirit of open government laws, we can begin to take the steps needed to eliminate waste and take control of public finances.

“In addition to requiring all government agencies to submit to public scrutiny, I hope this report also signals a change of heart in Governor Christie, who has preached openness in government services but has been less than forthcoming with information in the past. If government is to operate effectively and efficiently, we all have to follow the rules of openness and transparency. No one should be exempt, no matter what position they may hold.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Legislature as well as the Governor’s Office to advance meaningful open government laws which affect everybody – from the Governor down to the local dog catcher. The people deserve to know how their money is being spent. Given the financial scandals which have taken place in the recent past, a dose of transparency is long overdue.”