Transparency Costs

There are rumors afoot that some in the state bureaucracy are coming out against enhanced budget transparency, and specifically,  SB 936.

Why? Because it might cost them money to implement.

Putting aside the rather shaky notion that open government should be avoided because it might nick someone’s budget, what might transparency really cost?

Here are some figures:

* The federal government’s budget transparency site,  usaspending.gov, cost about $600,000 to create and launch. It tracks contracts, grants, loans and other spending throughout the federal government.  If the feds can manage to put their $2 trillion in spending into an online, searchable and highly-detailed format for just $600,000, surely Virginia could do the same for its $78 billion budget.

* Alaska, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina were able to create budget transparency sites and spent no new money to do so. Nebraska’s site will cost $39,000 and Mississippi’s will cost almost nothing because they will be using free transparency software available from the federal government.

* Texas spent $300,000 on their transparency site, but since its creation, they have used it to identify $2.3 million is savings by consolidating contracts and eliminating duplication between agencies.

Other states have paid more, or less, depending on the amount of sunlight they want to shed on their finances. Sen. Cuccinelli has already promised to bring forward millions of dollars worth of spending cuts to expand and enhance Virginia’s budget transparency, so again, the idea that we can’t afford it falls flat.

Here’s a video clip (thanks to Rick Sincere) where the cost issue is addressed directly.