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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Downing Supports Transparency In State Spending Legislation

02:25PM / Tuesday, June 05, 2007

State Sen. Benjaimin B. Downing[file photo]
Boston – State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing D – Pittsfield announced today that he has co-sponsored new legislation to open up the fiscal books of state government through an electronic website, enabling citizens to review and inspect items of state spending.

Drafted by State Senator Bruce E. Tarr R – Gloucester, this late-file petition is entitled “An Act to Provide Accountability and Transparency in the Finances of the Commonwealth,” and is largely based on a federal law that was passed in 2006 and authored by U.S. Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Barack Obama (D-IL). Downing observed that “if the federal government can provide spending transparency in its budget, there should be no reason that Massachusetts can’t provide the same mechanism of public fiscal oversight.”

If approved, the legislation would authorize the Secretary of Administration and Finance, the Comptroller, the Treasurer and the Operational Services Division to develop and operate a single searchable budget website. The website would:

* allow the general public complete access to research state expenditures
* be made freely available
* minimize cost
*maximize utility
* promote the accessibility of information.

"Every tax dollar in Massachusetts was earned by hard working people in the Commonwealth," said Downing. "This user-friendly electronic tool will put the power to understand state spending in the hands of anyone with an interest in where our dollars are going, and where our spending priorities are."

A website's primary function would be to allow the public to become more engaged and aware of how state funds are spent. The sponsors of the bill hope that the website would further contribute to the development of a so-called “Spend Management System” to allow state and municipal purchasers to share information and gain a significant advantage in the marketplace. Such a system would enable managers to identify spending trends, combine purchases of commonly procured items or services, and share resources where possible.

The following is the text of "An Act to Provide for Accountability and Transparency in the Finances of the Commonwealth";

SECTION 1. Definitions – For the purposes of this section, the terms below shall be defined as follows:

Entity – whether for-profit or not for profit, a corporation, an association, a partnership, a limited liability corporation, a limited liability partnership, a sole proprietorship, any other legal business entity, a political subdivision of the Commonwealth
provided that an employee of the Commonwealth or an individual recipient of assistance shall not be considered an entity.

(b)State expenditure – an expenditure of state funds including grants, subgrants, loans, awards, cooperative agreements, financial assistance, contracts, subcontracts, purchase order, task orders and delivery orders, and excluding transactions below $25,000.

1.Searchable website – a website which allows the public to:

a.Search and aggregate state expenditures by any item identified in the definition of website contained herein

b.Ascertain through a single search the total amount of state funding awarded to an entity by fiscal year, and

c. Download information, including the results of searches.

(c)Website – a searchable website which includes for each state expenditure:

The name of the receiving entity, the amount of the expenditure, information describing the expenditure such as transaction type, funding agency or program, and title descriptive of the purpose of the expenditure, the location of the entity receiving the expenditure and the primary location of performance pursuant to the expenditure, including the city, state, country and legislative district, a unique identifier of the entity receiving the award and of any parent entity of the recipient , and any other relevant information specified by the Operational Services Division.

SECTION 2. The Secretary of Administration and Finance, the Comptroller, the Treasurer and the Operational Services Division are hereby authorized and directed to develop a single searchable website, accessible by the public without cost, to enable the public to research and examine state expenditures as defined herein. Said website shall be designed so as to maximize utility, minimize cost and promote accessibility of information, and shall build upon resources currently existing, including, but not limited to, the “EASI” website, so-called, administered by the Executive Office of Administration and Finance, and the Comm-Pass system, so-called, administered by the Operational Services Division of the Executive Office of Administration and Finance.

In developing said website, the Secretary shall seek to obtain the use of coding and other information management infrastructure developed by the federal government pursuant to the “Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006”.

Said website shall seek to provide information for Fiscal Year 2008 and subsequent years.

A plan for the development and implementation of said website, together with any estimates for funding required and other legislative recommendations, shall be filed with the clerks of the House and Senate not later than November 30, 2007.
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