A handful of Republican legislators and the conservative anti-tax group "Iowans for Tax Relief" held a statehouse news conference today to tout legislation that would post the details of the state budget on-line.
Representative Doug Struyk, a Republican from Council Bluffs, says even legislators find it hard to track down the data. "Right now, if you’re trying to find out what’s going on in Iowa as far as spending — where the dollars are going out, where the dollars are coming from — you’re dealing with a maze," Struyk says.
Representative Linda Upmeyer, a Republican from Garner, says Republicans have been pressing for transparency in government, and a website where the entire state budget is posted, and can be searched, is one means of accomplishing that goal. "It’s a giant step towards making government more open to Iowans," she says, "and we cannot be afraid to shine light on every line of the budget."
Representative Erick Helland, a Republican from Grimes, is a rookie legislator who says the proposal responds to a main concern of voters. "To get here, I knocked on thousands of doors and talked to hundreds and hundreds of Iowans. Time and Time again I heard a consistent question: ‘Where are my tax dollars going?’" Helland says, "and currently our citizens have no method, no manner to check on our tax dollars and where they’re being spent, how they’re being spent and if they’re being used efficiently."
Senator Kim Reynolds, a Republican from Osceola, is another rookie lawmaker who is a cosponsor of the bill that would create a searchable website featuring the state budget, line-by-line. "Open and accountable government doesn’t necessarily need to require a great deal of effort," Reynolds says. "It’s really about providing respect to communities and taxpayers who fund government operations."
Senator Shawn Hamerlinck, a Republican from Davenport, says it’s important that legislators let their bosses — Iowa citizens — see how taxdollars are being spent. "No legislator here, Democrat or Republican, should be afraid to let Iowans know what they’re doing," Hamerlinck says. "After all, it is the people’s money and we should be proud to tell them what we’re spending our dollars on."
Iowans for Tax Relief president Ed Failor, Junior, says new Democratic President Barack Obama pushed through similar legislation in the U.S. Senate so the federal budget’s now available on-line. "Iowans for Tax Relief is thrilled to have a president who understands that basic concept, that those that are funding government have a right to an open and transparent government and he’s right, we can again restore trust in govenrment," Failor says. "So we’re very happy to support the president’s agenda because he understands that the consumers of government are all the people and all the taxpayers."
The Republicans estimate it would cost about $40,000 to take the state budget data that’s already available and shift it to a website that would be accessible to the public. Democrats control the legislature’s debate agenda and no Democrat has yet been invited to cosponsor the bill, so the proposal’s future is uncertain.
According to Iowans for Tax Relief, nine states already offer detailed budget information on-line. Click on the audio link below to listen to today’s news conference.