Soon, you’ll be able to track every tax dollar

OLYMPIA — Very soon you may not need to ask state lawmakers how they’re spending your tax dollars because you’ll be able to find out on your own.

Right down to what you paid for the paper and pens in their offices.

Legislation waiting to be signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire would create a Web site providing a quick and easy means of searching details in the state’s operating, capital and transportation budgets.

“This will give the public an opportunity to learn more and see what is going on down there in Olympia,” said Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish. “It’s in the best interests of the general public to have access to this information.”

Over time, its existence may even help restore a bit of the public’s confidence in government as they gain understanding of what goes into making the state’s budgets, he said.

No lawmaker voted against Senate Bill 6818 as it worked its way through the Legislature and onto Gregoire’s desk.

“The governor is still reviewing the bill,” spokesman Aaron Toso said Wednesday.

The governor has until April 5 to sign it, veto it or allow it to take effect without her signature.

Kristiansen co-authored nearly identical legislation in 2007, but it never got a hearing.

“It was an idea whose time has come,” said state Sen. Val Stevens, R-Arlington, who also introduced legislation this year to establish a searchable budget site.

Jason Mercier, Government Reform director for the Washington Policy Center, said this is the type of tool that enlightens the public on how its government works.

It “will help connect taxpayers with the spending decisions being made on their behalf by shining a light on what is being purchased and accomplished with their tax dollars,” he said.

Mercier helped draft the legislation. It is modeled on laws in Texas and Missouri, two states that make it possible to find expenditures by an agency, by a subject, for individual contracts and to vendors.

Under the proposed law in Washington, the Legislative Evaluation and Accountability Program would set up the online resource by Jan. 1, 2009. LEAP, as it is known in Olympia, is already a portal for online access to proposed and adopted budgets.

As in those other states, this bill requires that users be able to drill down to find the dollars spent in individual programs or, on a larger scale, an entire department.

Information on revenues will be available, too. There is also supposed to be a link to the Office of Financial Management’s list of nongovernment contract recipients.

And, this Web site also would tie users to data on state agencies’ workloads and caseloads and performance goals that they must meet.

“This should help with the budget debate,” Mercier said.

Lawmakers, lobbyists and interest groups will have good information as they consider why a program deserves funding or not, he said.

Stevens said this could prove to be a means for uncovering wasteful spending. It happened in Texas and led to several million dollars in savings, she said.

“Transparency in government is going to give people an opportunity to give their two cents’ worth and we might be able to save money,” she said.

Stevens said she won’t be surprised if state employees are the ones telling lawmakers where to look.

“I believe that this may be tool that has hidden benefits,” she said.

Reporter Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623 or jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

Tracking taxes

Washington could soon have a searchable Web site for the state budget, modeled after similar ones in Texas and Missouri. Here the sites for those states:

Texas: www.window.state.tx.us

Missouri: http://mapyourtaxes.mo.gov

Talk to us

More in Local News

A resident reported finding a dead Asian giant hornet near Marysville on June 4. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
Dead ‘murder hornet’ found in Marysville, a first for county

It could be from a previous season, scientists say, because males don’t typically emerge this early.

Jeff Thoreson does a cheer with his second grade class before the start of their kickball game on his last in-person day of school on Thursday, June 17, 2021 in Snohomish, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Snohomish teacher hit the right notes in memorable career

Jeff Thoreson will retire this month after molding minds at Riverview Elementary School for 41 years.

FILE - In this Dec. 16, 2020, file photo, Staff Sgt. Travis Snyder, left, receives the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine given at Madigan Army Medical Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state, south of Seattle. Nurse Jose Picart, right, administered the shot. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday, June 17, 2021, announced a new COVID-19 vaccine incentive lottery for the state's military, family members and veterans because the federal government wasn't sharing individual vaccine status of those groups with the state and there were concerns they would be left out of a previously announced lottery. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
New vaccine lottery announced for military in Washington

Gov. Inslee said there were concerns they would be left out of a previously announced lottery.

Police: After short chase in Marysville, man dies by suicide

Officers responded to a domestic violence call. The suspect reportedly shot himself at the end of a chase.

The Everett Police Department has asked the City Council to keep its nine Stay Out of Drug Areas, zones where people arrested for drug crimes are not allowed. (City of Everett)
Everett police ask council to renew 9 drug enforcement areas

SODAs are a legal tool that prohibits people arrested for drug crimes from entering certain areas.

Sequoia High graduates move their tassels from one side to the other at the end of the graduation ceremony on Thursday, June 17, 2021 in Everett, Washington. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Gallery: Sequoia High Graduation

Sequoia High School graduates receive their diplomas

Woman killed in hit-and-run south of Everett is identified

Detectives have been searching for the vehicle that struck Katherine Mueller, 31, of Snohomish.

Pallet communities are groups of tiny homes for unhoused people. Here, a worker installs weatherstripping on a pallet shelter at Pallet in Everett in January 2020. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)
Tiny home community is proposed at a Marysville church

The Pallet shelter community would provide transitional housing to eight people. Neighbors have questions.

In Edmonds, ‘small cell’ deployment permit becomes a big deal

The City Council has allowed new cellular equipment under an ordinance that regulates conditions.

Most Read