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Bring budget transparency into the 21st Century

By: Assemblyman Kevin Kiley and Assemblyman Vince Fong
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The private industry keeps getting smarter, but our government remains stuck in the past.

Across every industry imaginable, number crunchers are leveraging access to an ever-expanding supply of information to improve people's lives: from enhancing healthcare diagnoses to reducing traffic congestion to teaching computers to play Go.

Unfortunately, this enthusiasm for more informed, transparent and data-driven decision-making has yet to reach the California state government. Though just two hours from Silicon Valley, Sacramento remains an information black box, where money goes in and government programs come out with little-to-no accountability. For good reason, the state is rated last in the nation for access to government data.

Worst of all, California fails to offer what citizens in almost every other state take for granted – a digitized state budget that can be searched online.

This is not for lack of expertise. When Ohio lawmakers wanted to open up access to their budget, they turned to a California company to build a digital platform that was interactive, searchable and intuitive to use. Once again, while our companies lead the nation, our government lags behind.

The fiscal benefits of an online budget are clear. Bureaucrats are put on notice that their spending decisions will be subject to direct taxpayer oversight. At the same time, local city councils and state departments are empowered with information about how much their counterparts spend on services. Wasteful spending decreases, while bidding for public contracts becomes more competitive.

McKinsey & Co. has estimated the potential savings from digitizing government data to be $3 trillion worldwide.

These many benefits of modern and transparent government are why we are joining with assemblymen Jay Obernolte and Tom Lackey to author legislation that requires the California state budget to go online, allowing voters and government watchdogs alike to scan every budget item, line by line.

It’s time for Sacramento to follow the rest of the state into the 21st century and pass the Budget Transparency Act of 2017.

Assemblyman Kiley represents the 6th Assembly District, which includes parts of El Dorado, Placer, and Sacramento counties. Assemblyman Fong represents the 34th Assembly District, which includes part of Kern County.