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GOP leaders call for more transparent state, local government

by Matthew McClellan
Feb 14, 2013

Republican lawmakers are pushing for greater transparency in state and local government with proposed measures that would breakdown how tax dollars are spent.

This week, House Minority Leader Tom Cross of Oswego and Rep. Ron Sandack of Downers Grove proposed three initiatives aimed at making government more accountable to taxpayers.

Property taxpayers would have access to itemized accountings of how money is spent in local government, including school districts, municipalities and community colleges.

One initiative would expand an existing website, the Illinois Transparency and Accountability Portal, to include information on all taxing bodies, as well as an account of state pension and retiree health care liabilities. The website already provides users with access to information regarding state employee pay, agency expenditures and contracts, corporate accountability and professional licenses.

Another one of the proposed initiatives would create an Illinois Review Board, charged with evaluating the taxes, spending and debt of each taxing body.

According to a representative in Cross’ office, the review board will consist of nine members, four appointed by Illinois General Assembly leaders with the remaining five appointed by Gov. Pat Quinn.

The board will meet fairly regularly and would be required to report its findings to the governor and general assembly. In addition, board findings would be available for taxpayers to review.

Sandack said in a press release that with Illinois’ well-documented fiscal problems, these proposed measures are “easy things we can do to increase government transparency and save taxpayer money.”

Cross said that by adding such common-sense concepts, “taxpayers will not only be able to see how their tax dollars are being spent today, but what their tax and government spending obligations are into the future as well.”

A representative in Cross’ office said with greater access to this information, members of any community would be more informed on how officials are spending tax dollars and better able to persuade leadership to act in one way or another.

In response, Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon said she has been advocating greater transparency and ethics as top priorities. Simon is working with the legislature to strengthen statements of economic interest filed by public officials throughout the state.

Cook County already has government transparency measures in place. The Open County Initiative operates as a website where county residents are able to access various records and data about county functions. Available information includes county budgets, taxes and purchasing data similar to the kind of data the Cross and Sandack bills are calling for.

The three bills are under review by the House Rules Committee.