- Statement by Justin Keener, Vice President of Policy and Communications:
“It is no secret that Capital Metro has been accused in the past of lacking transparency. But by opening its books and placing its check register online for public examination, Cap Metro is looking forward, and responding to these criticisms directly, by giving taxpayers another tool to track their tax dollars and be better engaged with their government.
“For the past several years, the Texas Public Policy Foundation has been honored to be a part of the national transparency movement, working closely with Governor Rick Perry, Comptroller Susan Combs, and members of the Legislature to provide ideas and support for reforms that allow citizens to better see how and where their money is being spent.
“Texas is a leader in this national movement. In 2007 our Legislature mandated that the state’s check register be placed online, and subsequently Comptroller Combs launched an award-winning website that today gives citizens the ability to see nearly every check the state has written.
“Following the state’s lead was Collin County in the D/FW Metroplex, the first county in the nation to place its check register online. Since then, numerous cities, counties, school districts, and water districts have followed suit.
“But not all local governments have taken the same steps as Capital Metro. Our Foundation has been working for years to encourage local governments to follow the state’s lead and post their financial information online. Most government agencies resisting reform cite indefensible high cost projections, personnel requirements, or some other concern.
“However, as documented on our transparency website TexasBudgetSource.com, most of these concerns prove unfounded, and nearly every government agency implementing reforms has done so for far less money than expected – with most saving money due to decreased time spent on public information requests, as well as identifying waste and inefficiencies in their spending. Comptroller Combs found $10 million in savings by identifying duplicative services and other inefficiencies.
“Until today, one area of government not implementing fiscal transparency reforms was our urban transit agencies, even though many of them collect and spend billions of taxpayer dollars every year. Well, that has changed and I am thrilled to be here today to recognize Capital Metro for their significant achievement.
“Voluntarily opening its books for public scrutiny took guts and was the absolute right thing to do. Capital Metro knows the public has an insatiable desire for information and will likely pore over this new website looking for wasteful spending, potentially creating an embarrassing scenario for agency leaders when – not if – some unexpected or unknown error is uncovered.
“But instead of slowing reforms, the leaders of Capital Metro pressed the accelerator by responding to critics and saying we have nothing to hide. Today is a victory for the taxpayer.
“It is my hope that other transit agencies and local governments will follow Cap Metro’s lead by sharing their financial information with the people paying the bills – the taxpayers. The demand for this information will only grow, and with today’s readily available technology, there is no excuse to keep the information secret.”
Justin Keener is vice president of policy and communications for the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation is a non-profit, free-market research institute based in Austin.
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