TRENTON - New Jersey residents would be able to research a wide range of data on government spending online by next summer if a proposal moving through the legislature is signed into law.
The Senate approved the Transparency in Government Act, 29-3, on Thursday. The bill heads to the Assembly.
"A number of states already authorize taxpayers to track their tax dollars online," said Sen. Joseph Pennacchio (R., Morris), a sponsor. "This affordable, commonsense program will provide information in a user-friendly format that can be accessed from homes, libraries, and businesses. It is long past time that we listen to taxpayers who are demanding that Trenton be accountable."
Sen. Richard J. Codey (D., Essex), another sponsor, said taxpayers deserved unfettered, unrestricted access to information about how government spent their money.
"The public's business cannot be conducted in the dark, and the best disinfectant to guard against government corruption is public scrutiny," Codey said. "This bill would finally open up all government spending records for public review in New Jersey."
The bill would require the state treasurer and chief technology officer to design a searchable website that would include data dating to fiscal 2000.
Among the data that would be accessible to the public are disbursements by state agencies, receipts and deposits by state agencies, agency earnings, annual state bonded indebtedness, bond debt services, salaries and wages, contractual service purchases, capital outlay and improvements, aid to local units of government, annual state revenue, taxes, and federal grants. Any data deemed private, personal, or confidential by state or federal law would not be posted.
Local and county government officials and publicly funded boards, agencies, and authorities would also be required to cooperate with the state's efforts on the website. Those that receive direct funding or grants from the state would also have to provide information on the website about the annual bonded indebtedness of the entity.
The bill calls for the website to be created by July 1, 2011. Gov. Christie is expected to sign the bill if it is passed.