Today Republican legislators announced legislation to bring more oversight and transparency to Iowa government. The bill sponsored by the Republicans requires the Iowa Department of Management to develop and operate a single searchable web site for Iowa taxpayers to see how and where their tax dollars are being spent. The website would be required to be live for the public on January 1, 2011. This Iowa Transparency web site would allow the public, at no cost, to search an database that would provide the names and principal location or residence of recipients of state funds, amount of funds expended, the agency that provided those funds, the program or activity of the expenditure, description of the purpose of the expenditure, expected and past outcomes of funding actions or expenditures, state audits relating to expenditures, and other relevant information. Effective July 1, 2011, the web site is to be updated within 30 days of the end of each fiscal year. By January 1, 2012, data is to be added for previous budget years.
“There has been a growing momentum across the country for transparency in government,” said House Republican Whip Linda Upmeyer (R-Garner). “We’ve seen other states across the country identify millions of dollars of efficiencies and savings within state budgets through this type of program. It’s time for Iowa to follow suit.”
The bill would also require the Iowa Department of Management, in consultation with the Iowa Department of Revenue to develop and operate a searchable database and clickable map of all the tax rates in the state for each taxing jurisdiction by January 1, 2010 to. The database will include a tax rate calculator for taxpayers to calculate their taxes or potential taxes.
“Right now it’s a maze to find out how taxpayer dollars are being spent,” said Rep. Doug Struyk (R-Council Bluffs), a co-sponsor of the legislation. “Iowa needs a one-stop shop, rather than having to go through five or more different agencies to find out true state expenditures.”
The legislators argue that the current lack of transparency limits Iowans from participating in government and from raising questions or protesting unfair or ill-advised decisions. This legislation would give Iowans the chance to be consultants and carefully examine their state government.
“While talking to voters, the question I was asked most was ‘Where do my tax dollars go?’” said freshman Rep. Erik Helland (R-Grimes). “There is no easy way for Iowans to find the answer to that simple question, which is why I am proud to support this legislation.”
Estimated costs of transparency programs vary from state to state. For example, for Oklahoma, with a population somewhat larger than Iowa, the fiscal impact statement estimated costs for the transparency website around $40,000.