State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.
When the state Legislature reconvenes in January, I plan to re-introduce legislation to create a website that would show all state expenditures. The user-friendly searchable website would be maintained by the Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA).
Anyone could go to the website and see how the state is spending your money. Legislation that I introduced last session would require that the DOA must ensure that all state agency expenditures are available for inspection. The DOA would categorize expenditure information on the Web site by state agency and expenditure category. Within each category, DOA must show the amount and purpose of each expenditure exceeding $100 and the entity or person receiving your money.
All of the following information relating to state agency grants and contracts would be made available to the general public: a copy of the contract and grant award; the state agency making the grant or entering into the contract; the name and address of the person receiving the grant or entering into the contract; the purpose of the grant or contract; the amount of the grant or the amount the state agency must expend under the contract; and the name of the state fund the grant is paid or moneys are expended under the contract.
There would be frequent updates so the public is aware as quickly as possible about how their tax money is being spent. State agencies would be required to make the information available to the DOA not later than 24 hours after an expenditure is made or an agency makes a grant or enters into a contract.
Several states have already adopted this transparency philosophy called the Google-government trend, a movement that has tremendous benefits for taxpayers. One of the states is the “Show me” state, Missouri that last year created a popular database called the Missouri Accountability Portal (MAP). During May of this year, MAP exceeded six million hits.
Googling state government works. The National Taxpayers Union (NTU) reviewed Missouri’s database and found more than $2.4 million of dubious expenditures during the past eight years. According to the NTU, “The state of Missouri spent $15,482.57 at Ann's Bra Shop from 2000 to 2008 for ‘professional services’ and ‘clothing supplies.’ Over the same period, government employees spent more than $1.6 million at coffee shops, $387,210.14 at framing stores, $278,053.46 at florists and nurseries, and $70,849.02 at donut bakeries.”
Other expenditures discovered by the NTU included $936.75 spent at The Corsage Shop, $232.00 at Doris' Beauty Shop, $1,651.27 at The Jean Shop, $348.70 at the Budget Rose Shop, $6,964.55 at Susie's Bake Shoppe, and $3,803.00 at the Westside Barber Shop. During 2000, $12.00 was spent at Ann's Hair & Nail Shop. Apparently, twelve dollars was the price at the time for a manicure.
If a state government is throwing money around for bras, hair appointments, manicures, flowers, frames, and donuts, I am certain taxpayers would want to know that information. Clearly, having this information readily available would assist legislators making important budget decisions.
A quick and easy Internet clearinghouse would throw a laser beam on government spending, the increased focus having great potential for significant savings. As I researched this legislation, I was told that the Wisconsin data is available and technology is in place that could keep the cost of a transparency website relatively low. Yes, it is definitely time to Google Wisconsin government.