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Bill sponsored by local reps bolsters transparency

State government — Rep. Kim Thatcher and Sen. Larry George among the sponsors of 2013 bill aimed at enchancing Oregon Transparency Website


House Bill 2370 was signed into law by Gov. John Kitzhaber last month, marking the latest in a series of measures over the past few years aimed at enhancing the Oregon Transparency Website.

HB 2370 was spearheaded by state Rep. Kim Thatcher (R-Keizer), whose district covers Newberg and St. Paul. Thatcher was also part of the four-member, bipartisan group of legislators who drafted and promoted the bill that originally created the transparency site back in 2009.

The goal of the site, which went live in December of that year, was and is to assist Oregonians in understanding how state government spends their tax dollars. It also contains information about state agency revenues, expenditures, contracting, human resources and other data.

“This new law makes improvements on an already good thing for taxpayers,” Thatcher said in a press release. “From the start, we have added features one step at a time to avoid costly technology upgrades and we appreciate the staff at the Department of Administrative Services for their help in the process.”

Thatcher

According to data provided by the Administrative Services Department, the site’s usage has been relatively steady over the past few years. Its busiest month was its second one (January 2010), when it saw nearly 6,000 page views. Since then, it has averaged about 2,000 views per month.

George

HB 2370 was a bipartisan measure sponsored by Thatcher, state Sens. Larry George (whose Senate district includes Newberg and St. Paul) and Arnie Roblan and state Rep. Phil Barnhart. The bill passed unanimously during the 2013 legislative session, and calls for posting additional details about several high profile economic development programs.

The legislation also requires links to minutes of meetings, administrative rules, and more information about contracts issued by various state agencies, boards and commissions. In addition, local governments will have a place to link to their own budget transparency websites.

“Among other things, this bill will add additional information to the Oregon transparency website about a set of economic development tax subsidies, including the Oregon New Markets Tax Credit and Enterprise Zones,” said Celeste Meiffren, Oregon State Public Interest Research Group’s (OSPIRG) Consumer and Taxpayer Advocate. “This is essential to ensuring that the public can do meaningful evaluation of these subsidies’ cost and effectiveness.”

Such measures are important, Meiffren explained, because “transparency in government spending checks corruption, bolsters public confidence in government and promotes greater effectiveness and fiscal responsibility. We commend the Oregon Legislature for passing this important, bipartisan bill.”

To check out the site, see oregon.gov/transparency.




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