Demand Government Transparency

We should demand transparency from our government – at all levels. When first coming to office as a state representative, I was surprised to make headlines over something I didn’t give a second thought.  I posted online the expenses of my office, including my staff’s names and their salaries.  Little did I know that this was something no other state elected official had ever done.  It was information I thought taxpayers should know.  Sometime later, as I was talking about how we need to bring in line the Cadillac benefits that most government employees have, I decided to post my benefit plan and the small amount of cost I pay toward it and what it costs taxpayers.  Again, it was met with some fanfare, which surprised me.   Information about how government spends our money – detailed information – should be posted online for all to see.

Many states now aggressively make available online detailed spending, including vendor names, check amounts, and reasons for expenditures.  They also post government employee names, titles and salaries.  How else can we hold government accountable?  What is to fear? 

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has, for the last two years, aggressively driven school districts to post their check registers.  Rochester Schools was one of the districts to do this early.  During last year’s budget process, I was able to get a provision in the budget that required all 600+ school districts in Michigan to post union contracts, detailed expense information and compensation packages for all individuals making over $100,000.

Public universities should post detailed information about their expenses.  I think this would shed much light on why tuition costs often skyrocket.  Counties and municipalities should not fear putting all their spending online.  We need to demand this information.  It’s our money.

Information is power, which is why we need to empower taxpayers with any non-confidential information that our governments have.

State Representative Tom McMillin