Missouri aims at government transparency with new financial website

2 months 4 weeks 15 hours ago Tuesday, August 21 2018 Aug 21, 2018 Tuesday, August 21, 2018 3:32:00 PM CDT August 21, 2018 in News
By: Alex Arger, KOMU 8 Reporter
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JEFFERSON CITY - If Missouri residents wanted to get information about the state's finances, they would have to go through multiple sources to get what they need. According to Missouri State Treasurer Eric Schmitt, that all changes today.

During a press conference Tuesday morning, Treasurer Schmitt announced the launch of ShowMeCheckbook.mo.gov, calling it the "next generation of financial data transparency tools in Missouri." The website is a one-stop-shop to get information about expenditures, revenue, payroll, liabilities and cash flow. 

"This marks the first time that the public has been able to access all this information in one easy to use website," Schmitt said. "These five tabs on Show Me Checkbook provide unprecedented insight on how taxpayer dollars are being spent and managed by state government agencies in Missouri."

In April of this year, Missouri received a D+ grade for financial transparency from the Public Interest Research Group, ranking 39 out of 50 states. Schmitt made a campaign promise to make the state's finances more accessible, and he said this is a delivery on that promise.

"This is exactly what the government should be doing," Schmitt said. "I wholeheartedly believe Show Me Checkbook will move our state to a much needed restoration of trust and accountability."

The most recent development in financial transparency in the state was in 2007 when former Governor Matt Blunt launched the Missouri Accountability Portal. Schmitt says MAP has become outdated, and it was time to refresh that effort.

The development process started around six months ago, and the website was created internally. ShowMeCheckbook cost a total of $2000, which was spent on licensing fees.

The website currently has 20 million individual data points of the state's finances, and Schmitt said they are adding 10 thousand more each day. In the future, Schmitt said they hope to keep adding more information from previous years, as the website currently dates back to 2007. 

Truth in Accounting, a national group focused on the transparency of government financial information, pushes each state to adopt a system like this.

“Our representative form of government is based on an informed electorate," Sheila Weinberg, founder and CEO of Truth in Accounting, said. "This will make the government stronger because citizens can be more involved when they know the true financial position of their government.”

Schmitt said he hopes the website gives Missouri residents the information they want in a place that is easy to find.

Missouri resident Larry Dixon said he values government transparency when it comes to finances.

"You want to see what the money you work for is going toward," Dixon said. "I think it's important to have this information coming out now."

Dixon said he probably won't regularly check the website, but he's glad he has the resource for when he wants to check on the government.

"Most people won't know about the site or look into it," Dixon said. "But it's still there for accountability."

Schmitt said he hopes those who do use the website contact him about what they would like to see or what questions they have that remain unanswered with the website. 

“I think overall getting a picture of the state’s financial health and the fiscal health of the state is something that everybody ought to be interested in," Schmitt said. "It creates a greater sense of urgency for us to make sure that state government is acting responsible."

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