Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Voting for Transparency and Accountability

Deviating a bit from transportation discussions, another issue dear to our hearts here at the Cost Cutting Caucus blog (and over at AFP) is accountability and government transparency.

Taxpayers- and those who write the budget-have a right to know where the money goes. How much money did an agency get last year? Why are they asking for X% more this year? Simple questions, but ones that add up to millions or even billions of dollars.

Delegate Saxman noted in his first post here that:

One of the first things that the members of the CCC, primarily freshman delegates, realized was that the actual budget document was unreadable. Yes, it is printed in English and uses arabic numerals but it really told you absolutely zero about HOW the money was being spent and if it was being spent well. Since those early days, transparency became one of our major themes.

To address those concerns, the CCC introduced and passed HB1838, calling for a transparent and understandable budget. Now, the budget is closer to being understandable, but improvements are still needed so that legislators and taxpayers alike can see where their money goes.

A couple of bills were introduced this year to address these concerns: HB544 by Delegate Morgan Griffith, and HB1473 by Delegate Saxman. HB544 requires the Department of Planning and Budget, in addition to providing copies of all agency budget estimates, to prepare an analysis of such estimates for the deliberative use of the Governor and the General Assembly. HB1473 adds more requirements for inclusion in the executive budget that is submitted to the General Assembly in December, including program measures and performance standards to be tied directly to the performance of the function.

Both measures have passed the House, and HB544 (passed House 64-36) was reported from Senate Finance this morning by a vote of 10-5. HB1473 (passed House 100-0) was also heard by the Senate Finance committee this morning, but no motion was made on the measure.

Before they even begin to talk about sending more money to Richmond, legislators must have greater oversight and endorse greater transparency in the budgeting process. To do otherwise would be irresponsible.



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