Wednesday, January 20, 2010
New Site from the TCPR
The free-market non-profit Tennessee Center for Policy Research has launch a new website that is a great tool in the pursuit of government transparency. I encourage you to use it in your own pursuits and keep an eye on where our money goes. Having already tested it out, I can firmly give my approval. Below is the press release.
NASHVILLE – With Tennessee facing a potentially devastating budget shortfall, Tennessee citizens and elected officials need to thoroughly analyze how every tax dollar is spent.
Tennesseans will now get a new, clear look into how the state spends their money down to the agency, person, and penny, thanks to a new transparency website launched today by the Tennessee Center for Policy Research.
The website – OpenTennessee.org – offers searchable databases of the following information:
• The entire payroll of more than 40,000 executive branch officials
• The entire payroll of nearly 1,000 legislative branch employees
• The entire payroll of thousands of judicial branch employees
• The entire listing of all retirees receiving a pension from a state or local government
• Nearly $50 billion in payments made to individuals and businesses since 2007
The payroll information is searchable in a variety of ways, including first name, last name, title, branch of government, department, wages, overtime, and total compensation. The expenditures are searchable by year, branch of government, department, vendor, category, city, and state. All data found on the website can also be downloaded for future use.
While Governor Phil Bredesen took significant steps forward by creating a transparency website in early 2009, the state-run website is incomplete and lacks user-friendly features such as various search options. OpenTennessee.org is the first transparency website to be independently sponsored and maintained by a private, nonpartisan organization.
“OpenTennessee.org is the only comprehensive, searchable, and truly user-friendly transparency site in Tennessee,” said Clint Brewer, executive director of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research. “We hope this website will become the go-to source for Tennessee taxpayers, citizen journalists and the mainstream media, providing a clear look into how state tax dollars are spent…down to the agency, person, and penny.”
Here are some examples of information never before provided in a searchable, accessible format in Tennessee:
In 2008, 1,100 state employees received more than $19 million in overtime pay (search: Payroll, 2008, Overtime more than $10,000).
In 2008, 794 government employees earned more than $100,000 a year (search: Payroll, 2008, Wages more than $100,000).
In 2008, 402 state and local retirees received more than $5,000 a month in pension payments (search: Pensions, 2008, Rate more than $5,000).
In 2007, the state spent more than $3.5 billion on “confidential payments” that it refuses to disclose to the public (search: Expenditures, 2007, Vendor “confidential payments”).
Between 2007 and 2009, the state shelled out $18.2 million in interest on its debt (search: Expenditures, All Years, Category “interest on debt”).
In 2008, state agencies spent nearly $49 million on travel reimbursements (search: Expenditures, 2008, Category “travel”).
In 2007, state government racked up more than $30 million in communications and shipping costs, more than half of which went to cell phone bills through AT&T (search: Expenditures, 2007, Category “communications and shipping costs”).
“These examples represent the tip of the iceberg,” noted Brewer. “As more Tennesseans, lawmakers, and media utilize OpenTennessee.org to scrutinize government spending, there’s no telling what might be revealed.”