A free-market group testified in favor of legislation that would expand transparency through a publicly accessible government expenditure database.
“Fiscal transparency keeps governments honest,” Greg Lawson, a research fellow at The Buckeye Institute, said in his written testimony. The Buckeye Institute is a free-market think tank based in Columbus, Ohio.
“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,” Lawson said. “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.”
The legislation, House Bill 46, would require the Ohio Treasurer of State to create and maintain the database, which is commonly referred to as the “Ohio Checkbook.” The legislation passed the House unanimously and is currently being considered by the Senate General Government and Agency Review Committee.
The bill would require that the database be available on the treasurer’s website and include information about expenditures from each fiscal year after the enactment of the bill and must be accessible without charge.
The database would include the amount of each expenditure, the date on which it was paid, the vendor to which it was paid and the state entity that made the expenditure or requested the expenditure be made. The database would be searchable and be filtered by categories. It would also have a feature that allows a person to download the content.
Under the previous administration, former Gov. John Kasich raised a dispute with the office of the Treasurer about where the database would be housed, Lawson told The Center Square. However, he said that he doesn’t know of any major groups that are opposed to creating the database.
Even with the creation of the database, Lawson said that there are ways in which the government can continue to grow in fiscal transparency.
“Continuing to onboard local governments is essential,” Lawson said. “The cumulative cost of local governments is one of the great, under-the-radar issues in Ohio as they layer cost upon cost. Having this kind of transparency for all local governments and different taxing authorities will continue to shine a light on this reality. For example, two villages in Clermont County, Newtonsville and Amelia, just voted to dissolve due to ongoing fiscal challenges and overtaxation. Having these types of entities on the Checkbook will help.”
According to the Public Interest Research Group, Ohio is currently the best state for transparency.