State of Missouri’s accountability Web site surpasses six million hits
Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt created MAP last year to provide Missourians with valuable information about how their tax dollars are spent.
“My administration has been focused on being a faithful steward of Missourians’ tax dollars while at the same time improving efficiency and customer service,” Gov. Blunt said. “The Missouri Accountability Portal holds state government accountable for its spending choices by providing a free, online tool that tracks how the state spends your hard-earned money. My goal is to ensure that state government is accountable to Missourians for every dollar we spend.”
The MAP site is said to be one of the nation’s first comprehensive databases of financial records based on real-time data. At the close of each business day, the site is updated to provide the latest figures and information about state spending.
Information on the Web site includes:
• Salaries of state employees, searchable by the particular state agency, position title or employee name. Gross-pay amounts are included for the last pay cycle, as well as year-to-date salaries for each listing.
• State expenditures. View payment information for goods, services and program disbursements according to the specific state agency, expenditure category, contract or vendor.
• Tax credits. Find tax credit issuances by category, customer or legislative district. Examples of tax credit projects include real-estate development, remediation of contaminated sites, rehabilitation of historic structures, downtown revitalization, job creation and investment in Missouri.
Meeting transparency goals
Because of its ability to make government more responsive and responsible to citizens, Missouri’s MAP has been praised by policy analysts and political watchdogs.
“Gov. Blunt is one of the first governors to enable taxpayers to become fiscal watchdogs, and I commend him for taking this step towards greater fiscal transparency,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.
According to Angie Ross, analyst of state and local government profiles at Reston, Va.-based INPUT, Missouri’s portal effectively promotes transparency in government, and the Web site was not extremely expensive for state employees to create.
“These days, ensuring transparency to taxpayers is a top-line discussion among state legislators and is a top priority for state governors,” Ross said. “While some fight open government bills tooth-and-nail, mainly stressing lack of funding, others strongly support the far-reaching benefits of a simple tool that can be created with little or no difficulty and, above all, inexpensively.
“The perfect story praised by transparency advocates has been the success of Governor Blunt’s Accountability Portal (MAP),” Ross added. “The site, created with existing staff and with no additional appropriations for its cost, has reached 6,165,727 hits after only a few months of operation, according to a recent press release by the Governor’s Office.”
Routes toward a permanent MAP
“MAP was mandated by executive order and will only operate during Governor’s Blunt’s administration,” Ross explained. “In order for this site to permanently be maintained by the state, it needs to become law.”
In his State of the State Address, Gov. Blunt urged the General Assembly to make the MAP site permanent to ensure future transparency for Missouri taxpayers.
“Investments in transparency tools are projected to translate into billions of dollars in savings,” Ross noted. “Aside from these savings, the number of people visiting these Web sites and actively searching these databases only proves just how important it is for taxpayers to readily track government spending. Needless to say, these tools will only improve taxpayers’ trust in their governments, which should be the most rewarding outcome of all the money and time invested in the creation of these Web sites.
“One would hope Missouri’s transparency story inspires other states to not hesitate or make assertions about unfunded mandates,” Ross added. “It can be done, [and] Missouri has shown the way.”
To access MAP, visit http://mapyourtaxes.mo.gov/MAP/Portal/.