State Opens Virtual 'Checkbook' To Public

By Sarah Birnbaum

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Dec. 5, 2011

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State officials say a new website will make government spending more transparent. (seniorliving.org/Flickr)


BOSTON — The state of Massachusetts is putting everything from state contracts to government payroll information online for the public to scrutinize. Government officials unveiled the “Open Checkbook” website at a State House press conference on Dec. 5.
 
Jay Gonzalez, the governor’s budget chief, said that for the first time ever, residents can go online to see where their tax dollars are being spent.
 
“That’s going to present a great deal of information to taxpayers about the way in which the state is spending its money,” he said. “But more important than that, it’s going to make it accessible to them in a way that is useful and that they’ll be able to understand.“
 
In one part of the site, users can type in the name of state workers and see how much they make.
 
Users can also look up how much the state is spending on individual contracts with private vendors, and compare budgets of different state agencies.
 
Similar websites have been set up in New York City and the state of Alabama.
  
Officials warned the website is still a work in progress. It was not yet live as of 6:00 p.m. Monday.
 
Currently the site accounts for about 72 percent of state spending. Not included is financial information for cities and towns, the Massachusetts Port Authority, the MBTA and other quasi-public agencies.
 
"Their spending is not done through the state accounting system so we don’t have access to that real-time spending information," Gonzalez explained.
 
But officials said they hope more information will be made available in future iterations of the site.

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