Monday, April 09, 2007

Maryland Lags on Spending Transparency

As a bastion of "liberal" thinking, Maryland's legislature--presumably with the support of the majority of Maryland's voter's--is certainly a liberal spender of the public's tax money. So much so that Maryland faces a structural budget deficit of over 6 billion dollars in the next five years. Too bad the Democrat-controlled legislature doesn't display such liberality in wanting to allow the taxpayers to easily determine how state funds are being spent.

The Internet, of course, provides a means which would allow such spending information to be made available to the public in an easily retrievable manner and at relatively little cost to the state. That's why it is so disappointing that the "Maryland Funding Accountability and Transparency Act" introduced by Delegate Warren Miller and Senator Alex Mooney and several Republican colleagues went nowhere this legislative session. The Accountability and Transparency bill would require Maryland to establish a "single, searchable website, accessible to the public at no cost," that allows Maryland citizens to easily track state funding of grants, loans, awards, and other forms of limited assistance.

There is an editorial in today's Examiner newspaper that explains why the new database established by OMB is a "giant step forward" in enabling the public to track the federal earmarks that did so much under Republican rule of the Congress to lead to bloated spending. As the Examiner editorial explains, "the OMB Earmarks Database offers details on 13,496 earmarks totaling more than $19 billion that were contained in fiscal year 2005 appropriations."

The Examiner deserves much credit for urging Maryland to adopt legislation along the lines of the Miller-Mooney bill and for spotlighting the legislators' position on this openess issue. See here and here.

If the Bush Administration can get the searchable OMB database up and running fairly quickly to provide some much-needed transparency regarding federal spending, you would think that Maryland's government could do the same. Unless the legislature and the governor really don't want to make it easy to "show me the money." Liberal spending should be accompanied by liberal disclosure.