Business Group Pushes For Government Transparency Website
The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) is one of the more powerful influencers inside the state capitol.
This year, they're focusing on government transparency, namely through the creation of a website called Louisiana Checkbook. LABI president Stephen Waguespack says it's about rebuilding people's trust in government.
"How do you rebuild trust?" he asks, "First thing to start is being truthful and putting information out there.”
The model for this website comes from Ohio. That’s where Frank Kohstall is director of public affairs for state treasurer Josh Mandel.
“Treasurer Mandel truly believes that every Ohioan has the right to know how their tax money is being spent," he explains. "That’s why we did this.”
In 2014, Mandel’s office launched OhioCheckbook.com, giving citizens an inside look at exactly how the state is spending money.
Louisiana's Treasurer John Schroder wants the same for folks here.
"From buying a pencil to buying an automobile," he says, "I think the citizens of Louisiana ought to be able to see it."
The former state representative says with more transparency comes more accountability. And that, he says, could change state spending habits.
Those spending habits are a point of contention in the negotiations between Gov. John Bel Edwards and House leadership over how to address the fiscal cliff — when more than $1 billion in state revenue is set to expire.
Gov. Edwards wants to replace most of that revenue through tax measures, an effort the business group has concerns about. Speaking to members of LABI Thursday, the Governor says "transparency is something that I embrace."
Leaders in the House say spending reforms like Louisiana Checkbook must be part of fixing the state's revenue problem. Edwards says he isn't opposed to the idea, but warns the program will cost money to implement and doesn't help fix the immediate budget crisis.