May 12, 2009

One step forward, one step back in Colorado

And now some news from our fellow Western brethren. Colorado has passed HB 1288, the transparency initiative we've mentioned before. The bill gives Coloradans a comprehensive look at their state finances.

Or does it?

While the bill was still in the early stages of development, Colorado governor Bill Ritter introduced his own transparency initiative. While announcements like this are usually welcomed in the transparency community, the Governor's executive order contained some loopholes that undermined the legislature's open government efforts.

So, what is the bad news then?

Well, HB 1288 features language that allows for the inclusion of "AGGREGATED INFORMATION" when the legislature's bill and the Governor's executive order overlap. In other words, line-by-line listings of expenditures can be scrapped in favor of an overall tally in each department.

We agree with FiscalAccountability.org when they say …

Full financial transparency isn’t achieved unless taxpayers can access line-item information on their state’s spending and the new clause in theory allows agencies to provide only aggregated data on their spending, obfuscating the intent of expenditures.

We applaud Colorado for taking steps towards opening up state finances and hope they err on the side of comprehensive disclosure not aggregated.