Now With 95% More Transparency
Today, the Show-Me Institute launched four new online tools that enable Missourians to track state spending, employee pay, tax credits, and stimulus projects. These tools take state-provided datasets and make them understandable and intuitive for just about anyone. You can create your own graphs or quickly compare detailed information among state agencies.
In my opinion, there couldn’t have been a better time for Missourians to have these tools. At 7 p.m. today, Gov. Jay Nixon will deliver his State of the State address. Given the continuing decline in state tax revenues, Nixon could soon announce another round of budget cuts, on top of the hundreds of millions already cut from the state budget this fiscal year.
Sen. Jason Crowell has argued that tax credits should be part of the state budget process, instead of allowing government agencies to dole out credits with little regard for how much the state can afford to give out each year. And, of course, state agencies and local governments across the board have accepted hundreds of millions in federal “budget stabilization” dollars, which lets them stave off cuts, for now.
Our online tools can help you put these issues into perspective.
Although a $200 million round of budget cuts may seem drastic, state expenditures in 2009 were up more than $1.5 billion from 2008 (see the “Spending Overview” tab). As for state tax credits, I was surprised to see that the amount issued each year varies wildly (see the “Overview” tab) — from a high of more than $500 million in 2006 to less than $150 million in 2009. Most startling is the amount of federal money that state agencies and local school districts are leaning on. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has spent nearly $350 million of federal budget stabilization money, and has less than $100 million left (See the “Spending & Revenue by Program” tab).
The data behind these tools will be updated each week, which means you can check back periodically to see what’s new. It’s my hope that these tools are an easy way to keep up with what the state is actually doing, instead of the latest political rhetoric.