Score one for State Comptroller Kevin Lembo on the government and transparency front to start 2013. .
Lembo has launched a new website for the public to get an unabridged and politically neutral one-stop source for where state government spends its money, gets its income and borrows. If there are inefficiencies or redundancies to root out as CT faces billion dollar budget deficits this is the place to find it. “Sunshine,” the Justice Louis Brandeis famously said, “is the best disinfectant.”
Open Connecticut is more comprehensive than the website served up by the Yankee Institute — a right wing think tank — that paints state employees with a broad brush whether they are earning their keep or notand uses data to tear down government
According to Lembo’s office Open Connecticut — www.osc.ct.gov/openct —centralizes state financial data and simplifies access to important information about the state budget and its financial future.
Here’s more from the Comptroller’s Office:
“It’s your money, and you have a right to know,” Lembo said. ‘That’s the simple message behind Open Connecticut. ‘Pockets of state financial information have long been available, but scattered across state agencies. Those who actually have the time to locate information often discover the next difficult step – understanding the information. ‘Through Open Connecticut we want to accomplish at least two things – we want to end the scavenger hunt for taxpayers by creating a centralized warehouse for financial information, and we want to help explain and break down the state’s financial processes as simply as possible. ‘We want to help answer basic questions that the public may have – and deserves to know – about state government. For example, what exactly is in the state budget? Where did our deficits or surpluses come from? How much did we spend on a particular vendor or program? And what should we expect in future years?” Open Connecticut is currently organized into seven sections: STATE BUDGET: Provides access to the state budgets for current and previous years, annual end-of-year financial reports, deficit mitigation plans and results-based accountability (RBA) reports that serve as report cards on how state money was spent on certain projects. STATE INCOME: Features monthly reports by the Department of Revenue Services on the amount of state revenue received, as well as reports on income tax collected by bracket and by town. STATE BORROWING: Provides access to the state’s Bond Allocation Database, which contains information about projects approved by the State Bond Commission. This section also features background about the State Bond Commission, its members and how the bond authorization and allocation process works. FUTURE COST OBLIGATIONS: Provides background and links to actuarial reports on the state’s various retirement systems and retiree health care (known as the Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) report). FOLLOW THE MONEY: Features links to transparency.ct.gov, an existing searchable website maintained by the Office of Fiscal Analysis (OFA) that already provides information (from the Office of the State Comptroller (OSC)) about employee salaries, vendor payments, retiree pensions and other detailed information about state spending. FINANCIAL FORECAST: Includes links to monthly independent financial forecast reports by the OSC, OFA and Office of Policy and Management, as well as links to fiscal accountability reports and consensus revenue projections. TAX BREAKS & EXEMPTIONS: Provides links to reports by OFA and Department of Economic and Community Development on the cost of tax expenditures and evaluations on certain tax credit and abatement programs. Open Connecticut also features brief tutorials on issues such as Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), the state spending cap and consensus revenue. “This site is by no means a finished product – but a starting point towards greater transparency and connectivity between the public and state government,” Lembo said. “My goal is to see this site evolve and expand to include more information as it becomes available. I encourage state residents to use the site, to better understand their government – and to let us know if they have ideas to improve the site going forward.” Lembo, as state comptroller, is the state’s chief fiscal guardian. In that capacity he monitors state finances and issues monthly and annual financial reports. Elected in 2010, Lembo previously served as the state’s Health Care advocate..