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 OpenTheBooks.com, the largest private database of U.S. public-sector expenditures.