Buckeye Institute Fellow Testifies for Bill Intended to Increase Accountability in Government

Greg Lawson, a research fellow at the free-market think tank The Buckeye Institute, testified Wednesday before an Ohio legislative committee on the importance of a bill that would “codify” a new tool to expand government transparency in the state.

In December of 2014, then Republican State Treasurer of Ohio Josh Mandel oversaw the implementation of a new accountability system called Ohio Checkbook. The database was heavily influenced by a similar system developed by The Buckeye Institute.

The Buckeye Institute’s system began by listing available salaries of public officials. Ohio Checkbook was similar in its initial launch but has expanded dramatically. In addition to salaries, it now lists a complete breakdown of more than a hundred government entity expenditures from 2008 to the present day. Furthermore, it displays an exact breakdown of every vendor the state pays and how much.

A recent report filed by a third-party group found that Ohio ranked as the 46th most transparent state in 2014 before jumping to the number one most transparent state in 2015. In his testimony, Lawson asserted that this was a direct result of the program. House Bill 46 (HB 46) would ensure the site’s continued existence and expansion.

In support of it, Lawson Stated:

Fiscal transparency keeps governments honest. Showing Ohio taxpayers how their elected officials spend their hard-earned tax dollars helps citizens better understand what their government does and how it operates. And that, in turn, helps citizens ask better questions, encourages more effective change, and demands greater accountability for elected officials. A more informed citizenry yields a more efficient, more responsive government—something on which everyone here can agree….

House Bill 46 will help secure Ohio’s progress on transparency and government accountability by codifying the Ohio Checkbook initiative and protecting it from political maelstroms that might someday uproot this important program.

Participation in the site is not mandatory. Each Ohio government entity has the option to voluntarily opt in or opt out of the database.  There are currently 136 government agencies, officials, higher-education institutions, and boards and commissions available for review, while state spending is updated monthly.

Lawson ended his testimony by stating:

…this effort is just the beginning. True transparency will not be achieved until every governmental unit has opened its account books and made them available online for all of us—every Ohio taxpayer—to better understand how our governments work on our behalf.

A full PDF of his speech can be found here.

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Andrew Shirley is a reporter at Battleground State News and The Ohio StarSend tips to aashirley1809@gmail.com.
Photo “Greg Lawson” by Greg Lawson.

 

 

 

 

 

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