At long last, Montana’s Checkbook is finally on-line!
Governor Steve Bullock announced the launch of a brand-new website where taxpayers can finally go to see where their money is being spent. Many of us have been pushing for this for a long time, and now one of the bills that I had drafted for this session will not even be necessary.
Here you will be able to see which companies have been paid by the state, and when, and the amount of the payment that they received for the goods and services they provided. You can see how many state employees are in each department, and what they are paid.
For example, in the “State Employee Data” section, you can look up the compensation that a State Legislator like me gets paid when we are representing you up here in the legislature, and find that our salary is $82.64 per day. Or, say you want to know how much we have actually been reimbursed for a hotel room, and on what date; you can look right in the “Montana Checkbook” section, and see when we have received a check of $89.21 for “In State Lodging”.
Now that every taxpayer can more easily see how the state is spending their money, I think we will see more efficient government, and better financial decision making.
Please test-drive this new website, www.Transparency.MT.gov. Be patient, and remember that this is just the very beginning for a service that we hope will grow, and get better. As you use it, take time to email your questions or comments to the State Accounting Bureau at MontanaCheckbook@mt.gov. They’ll appreciate knowing what you think, as they work to refine and improve this new Transparency Website.
I mentioned that some of us have been working on this proposal for years. In 2009, I was proud to co-sponsor Senator Joe Balyeat’s transparency bill that passed the Senate, but died on a tie vote in the House. Then in 2011 we passed Representative Tom Burnett’s transparency bill through both houses, but it died on a veto by our previous Governor. Now it seems to be an idea whose time has come, I am thrilled that this Governor decided to take the initiative to move ahead!
One of my heroes, Ronald Reagan had a brass paperweight that sat on his oval office desk with the following inscription: "There is no limit to what a man can do, or where he can go, if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit."
A replica of that same paperweight sits in my office.