The Orange County Register: California Wants to Keep $300 Billion in Spending a Secret

May 2, 2022 11:00 AM



By Adam Andrzejewski

When it comes to spending your tax dollars, California holds a unique and unpleasant distinction: It’s the only state in the nation that does not share its line-by-line expenditures with the public. That needs to change. Each of the other 49 states respond to our open records requests by revealing what they spent and whom they paid. Then, citizens can decide how effective state agencies are at improving their lives.

But California? Its roughly $300 billion in expenditures can go without scrutiny.

Controller Betty Yee says her office does not keep a central database with all the checks written by over 500 state agencies.

We believe transparency is transformational. Transpar­ency will revolutionize Califor­nia public policy and politics. So, OpenTheBooks will do what Yee’s office will not: we are sub­mitting some 500 separate re­cords requests to each and every state agency. Then, like a jigsaw puzzle, we will assemble Califor­nia’s checkbook for the public. Think of it as the public spend­ing genome project. When sci­entists mapped the human ge­nome, it ushered in a new era of medical progress. When we map all of state spending, just think of the possibilities.

We shouldn’t have to wait for piecemeal investigations and sporadic scandals to emerge. All state spending should be ex­posed online, in real time. Cali­fornians deserve these insights just as much as New Yorkers, Io­wans, Michiganders or Florid­ians. Since Controller Yee and the Newsom administration won’t open the books, we’ll do it for them.

Adam Andrzejewski is the CEO and founder of, the largest private database of U.S. public-sector expenditures.



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