Google Government is coming to Oregon.
The Oregon Legislature gave final approval to HB 2500 this morning, which sets up a one-stop website for taxpayer spending.
Over 25 other states and the Feds already have this kind of thing set up. Some of the sites are really good. Ironically, the Federal Government has one of the best sites: www.USASpending.gov.
It goes without saying that Oregon has been a laggard. See a comparison of how Oregon compares to other leading states.
Although Oregon's Google Government bill will get things started, it is a baby step compared to what states like Missouri and Illinois have done. For starters, the bill only requires information that is already collected to go up online - which is a good start, but part of the problem is that not enough information is collected.
That said, simply getting the existing tax spending info into one place is a big leap.
If you don't follow me, try this game: without clicking on the links, find the Tax Expenditure Report (details all the lost revenue associated with various tax programs), ORPIN (discloses some, but not all state government contracts), Economic and Community Development Department's one-time report in 2008 outlining what companies received tax breaks and the jobs that were created, and the Secretary of State's Audit site.
It's not a very fun game, and for that reason, we like HB 2500. And we like the bi-partisan team that pushed this through: Reps. Jefferson Smith, Arnie Roblan, Kim Thatcher, and Gene Whisnant.
But for Oregon's Google Government to really be a slam dunk, it is going to have to go further: get all tax-subsidized contracts online, detail all companies that get tax breaks and the value generated from them, and put all of this into a searchable database.
Fortunately, an Advisory Commission is set up to hammer out these additional steps. We'll be right there to help them work it out. Stay tuned...