By Alexander Hochreutener, JMI Intern & FSU Junior in Finance & Economics
In 1802 Thomas Jefferson said: “We might hope to see the finances of the Union as clear and intelligible as a merchant’s books, so that every member of Congress and every man of any mind in the Union should be able to comprehend them, to investigate abuses, and consequently to control them.”Today, Freedom of Information Acts or Sunshine Laws already legally require public access to many government records, as well as access to meetings. The problem is that there is no clear legislative mandate for localities to do the same. One excuse has been that it is too costly for localities to go about being transparent, but with the increase in technology so many more feasible possibilities are available.Transparency will allow for the creation of a checks and balance system between the taxpayer and the government thereby giving taxpayers the information to perform due diligence and defend against useless spending.Florida has been a leader in transparency at the state level; however, sadly, it has lost its leadership position. The states of South Carolina and Delaware passed legislation, and Michigan recently passed an amendment, requiring school districts to post their expenditure information online. One hundred years after Florida originally became a leader in transparency, let’s hope that the state legislature and local councils will move towards developing requirements for localities to post their expenditure information online; therefore, allowing for a swift opening of local expenditures to public scrutiny.For more information, read JMI Policy Brief No. 6:  “Transparency in Government Spending: Next Steps for Florida”