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Louisiana Lobbyists, Business Groups Push State to Launch Budget Transparency Website


February 6, 2018
By Keith Magill
Originally Posted on Government Technology

Louisiana business groups want state government to create a website they say would give residents a clearer picture of how taxpayers' money is spent.

Supporters say LouisianaCheckbook.com would make state and, eventually, local governments more accountable to voters and taxpayers.

The proposal comes as the legislature prepares to address an estimated $1 billion budget shortfall in either a special session later this month or during a regular session that begins March 12.

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"If the legislature listens to the people and makes LouisianaCheckbook.com a reality, citizens will have access to information about every dollar spent by government in Louisiana, so they'll have a meaningful way to hold elected officials accountable to how their tax dollars are used," Daniel Erspamer, CEO of the Pelican Institute for Public Policy, a conservative think tank based in New Orleans, said in a news release announcing the push Monday.

It's among more than two dozen business groups and conservative political advocacy organizations supporting such a website, patterned after OhioCheckbook.com. They include the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, Louisiana Chemical Association and Louisiana Home Builders Association.

GOP lawmakers, including House Speaker Taylor Barras, are also pushing for the move.

Advocates say the site would be more user-friendly and provide greater detail than the state's LaTrac website, created years ago to serve a similar purpose. They have launched LouisianaCheckbook.com with information about their drive, along with a petition organizers can sign in support.

The Ohio website cost nearly $1 million to build and costs another $1 million a year to operate, according to media reports.

Gov. John Bel Edwards' administration has also noted in budget documents that upgrading state computer systems to make them compatible would be necessary to provide the detailed information available on the Ohio website. That could cost an estimated $26 million more and take three years to complete.

But supporters say the site would help curb state spending.

"Louisiana state government spends more each year, yet we as Louisianans continue to see the same challenges we have faced for generations," said Stephen Waguespack, Louisiana Association of Business and Industry president and CEO. "It is time to let taxpayers see exactly where their tax dollars are being spent at all levels of government. The infusion of transparency provided by the implementation of LouisianaCheckbook.com is a reform that should appeal to everyone and break through the partisan fighting we see too often today."