November 12, 2008

Kentucky’s Open Door

Key materials
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The Regulation

Earlier this year, Gov. Steve Beshear appointed an E-Transparency Task Force to develop and implement a one-stop shop on the internet to allow citizens to easily access information about the state's finances. That Task Force recently asked for public comments on "mockups" of a proposed website design and online disclosure generally.

Our Findings

  • The Treasury V.I.E.W. application allows users to search by payee information (name, city, state, zip), ranges of dollar amounts, check dates, and the issuing agency. Once a search has been completed, V.I.E.W. allows users to export the results in a variety of formats including XML. We suggest that the database’s capability be expanded to include live-updating XML feeds that are sortable and trackable.
  • The search form and output form of the Secretary of State Online Checkbook differs from V.I.E.W. in several ways. We appreciate that the Online Checkbook output includes the expense type, where V.I.E.W did not. Also included are vendor, payment date, amount, (and a blank notes field), but not the location of the vendors or the particular project with which the cost is associated. Unlike V.I.E.W., there is no export feature, nor does it offer any structured data feeds, which would be very useful.
  • Gov. Beshear’s executive order states that the task force’s efforts will "include, but not be limited to, providing information about state expenditures and state programs." We encourage the task force to embrace this potentially wide-ranging mandate to open up state government.
  • While the Task Force should therefore be commended for pursuing several educational modules that aim to teach the public about the budget process, these modules would benefit from further consideration. For example, the Task Force should seek to discover evidence of whether children are likely to visit the state’s "for kids" budget website. It should also seriously consider whether the budget office has the expertise to develop lessons for children, and whether children would benefit from education about the state budget.