June 18, 2010
RE: S-708/A-146/A-158 “Transparency in Government” Mandates
On June 10, the State Senate passed S-708, which would require, among others, every municipality in the State to present a ‘detailed plan’ to the State Treasurer for a new website that would be ‘readily accessible to the general public’ and that would provide, ‘in detail,’ a laundry list of information relating to expenditures, revenues and bonded indebtedness.
S-708 has been referred to the Assembly Budget Committee, where it joins similar bills, A-146 and A-158.
Our Legislative Committee reviewed the legislation on June 11, and voted to oppose these bills.
We sincerely appreciate the sponsors’ interest in maximizing the availability of public financial, and other, information. In fact, the vast majority of municipalities already post this information on their websites. In addition, municipalities provide the State with most of the requested information in detail on state approved forms, such as budgets, supplemental debt statements, and annual financial statements.
Admittedly, the information specified in the bill isn’t always posted on a single page. And it might not meet everyone’s definition of being sufficiently ‘detailed’ or ‘readily accessible.’
The lack of precise definitions of those requirements, in the bill, could subject municipalities to litigation, should the legislation be enacted, in its current form. That possibility is the first reason for our opposition.
Further, we believe that this bill would require the investment of considerable time and energy by local governments, already struggling to do more with fewer resources and smaller workforces. It would accordingly, constitute an unfunded mandate. That is the second reason for our opposition.
Finally, while we commend the sponsors for their interest in transparency, we believe that this bill would impose requirements much more costly than the value of any benefits that might accrue. That is the third reason for our opposition.
Accordingly, we oppose S-708, A-146 and A-158. If you share our concerns, please alert your representatives in the General Assembly and urge them to oppose these bills.
If you have any questions, contact Jon Moran at 609-695-3481, ext. 121.
Very truly yours,
William G. Dressel, Jr.