State Sen. Kim Reynolds, R-Osceola, said the Legislature should adopt a taxpayer transparency act that would establish state and local budget databases so that Iowans could more easily see how they are taxed and where that money is going. This is similar to a proposal that was offered last year by State Representative Dawn Pettingell.
State Rep. Doug Struyk, R-Council Bluffs, also brought out some suggestions, offering an idea is to create a division of accountability and analysis within the non-partisan Legislative Service Agency that would have the task of analyzing and reviewing programs to gauge their cost and effectiveness. Once that was done, the new watchdog division would recommend to the Legislature whether the program should continue to be funded. If it is found to be in need of some additional canges, that could also be implemented in future years.
Similar efforts in other states have resulted in significant savings, the two GOP legislators said. As state and local revenue is in the decline, it is more urgent than ever to have a level of accountability in state government that the public can easily access and understand.
“Reform is needed now. Iowa taxpayers simply cannot wait for the next CIETC scandal or film office debacle to happen,” said Matt Strawn, chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa. “Government has become too large too fast and it is time for a set of common-sense Iowa open government initiatives to solve Iowa problems with Iowa solutions.”
Struyk said Republicans believe a top to bottom review of state programs is needed. To achieve that, he proposed the development of a data base that is analyzed independently from the departments that are being examined. Such an effort could be undertaken using existing resources and personnel without increasing the size of government, he added. This would also help deal with the problem that has come to light recently of the various departments being given resources for job positions that have not been filled. Many times this becomes a “slush fund” for the departments to use as they see fit.
Reynolds admitted there would be costs in implementing an Iowa transparency Web site. She said it would cost approximately $40,000 to $50,000 to create a publicly available database that would be accessible to taxpayers at no charge so they could review the annual revenues and expenditures of state and local governments.
At the local level, every county in Iowa and towns with a population greater than 10,000 initially would participate in implementing this database within their current resources, she added. As the public becomes more able to access and understand the use of various websites, this becomes more and more a viable option for folks to “follow the money”.
“Open and accountable government will help us in restoring citizens’ confidence in government and how we spent their money,” Reynolds said.
The GOP legislators were quick to point out that their open government initiatives did not propose any changes to current laws governing open meetings or open records in Iowa.
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Rep. Betty DeBoef