Thursday, February 26, 2009

Bullish on Budget Transparency

There is good news from Richmond with regard to making the state budget more available -- and more comprehensible -- to citizens and taxpayers.

I earlier wrote about attempts to create a searchable database of the Virginia state budget through legislation introduced by Delegate Ben Cline and state Senators Ken Cuccinelli and Chap Petersen.

The good news is that the final version of these bills has been passed by both houses of the General Assembly -- in each case by a unanimous vote.

According to Ray Reed of the Lynchburg News & Advance:

A bill that will let people look up state expenditures online won final passage on a 40-0 vote Wednesday in the Virginia Senate.

Its sponsor, Del. Ben Cline, R-Rockbridge, said the measure improves an existing online database, called Commonwealth Datapoint, by speeding up the information the state had planned to post there.

Originally, Cline’s HB 2285 would have directed state information-technology officials to create a new searchable database for the state budget.

“Instead, the bill is trying to improve an existing database” managed by the state auditor of public accounts, Cline said.

“My bill puts it on steroids,” Cline said.

The data to become available will include line-item expenditures and spending on projects, according to the bill.

Order numbers, invoices and receipt information will be included so the public can “identify all supplies of goods, commodities and other services to the Commonwealth,” the bill said.
MSNBC picked up this story with an amusing typo in the headline: "General Assembly approves bulls to track state spending online" -- which brings all sorts of snorting and hoofing images to mind.

Oddly, Richmond Sunlight shows that both Cline's and Cuccinelli's bills on budget transparency have "failed." My guess is they were folded into other pieces of legislation that have different numbers, but I'd be curious to learn those details from readers with better information than I have.

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