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News Release from Comptroller Susan Combs

For Immediate Release
May 6, 2010

Comptroller’s Expanded Transparency Website Provides
More Complete View Into Texas Government

(AUSTIN) — In our current economic times, taxpayers increasingly ask, “Where does the money go?” Transparency in government means citizens must be able to see through its workings, to know exactly what goes on when public officials transact public business. That’s why Texas Comptroller Susan Combs has launched a new, expanded transparency website at www.TexasTransparency.org that offers a more comprehensive look at how the state spends tax dollars.

The site features the Comptroller’s award-winning Where the Money Goes tools to track state spending, a new Where the Money Comes From tool to show state revenues, an Open Data Center for direct access to Comptroller data, information about the state budget process and a spotlight on transparency efforts at the local government level.

On her third day in office, Combs embarked on a mission to open up the state books to the public, and her agency published its expenditures online down to pencils. Because of transparency, the Comptroller’s office was better able to see where and how to spend and save money.

“This new website pulls all our numerous transparency efforts into one place, providing easy access to state spending as we ensure greater accountability to the public,” Combs said. “Our transparency efforts provide access to detailed, centralized and easily navigable information about budget and expenditures, useful in identifying redundancies, inefficiencies and other areas for improvement with a clarity that was simply not possible before. We continue to encourage government at every level to open its books to the public so taxpayers can see how tax dollars are applied.”

One of the site’s centerpieces is the Open Data Center. This center expands on the Comptroller’s ongoing transparency initiative and provides direct access to data that does not require specific systems or applications to be independently utilized by users. The Open Data Center also offers other important data tools to research taxable entities, access spending information, view Texas demographic information and more.

The Comptroller’s office already provides access to numerous types of tax data, including downloadable files for sales tax rates for Texas cities, hotel occupancy tax receipts, new sales tax permits and sales tax allocations. The agency also uses tools that generate various online reports and database query systems that allow users to download and save data in accessible formats. But with the Open Data Center, the Comptroller’s office is pulling all available raw data files into one spot.

“We’re giving users a one-stop shop to find all of our existing database query systems, and we’re showing the state’s financial data in new and interesting ways,” Combs said. “Transparency not only makes government accountable to the taxpayer that ultimately foots the bill, but it equally makes governments stronger, better and more efficient. Transparency efforts in Texas have yielded cost savings of $51 million since 2007. As our own experience shows, if you know what you are spending, you know how to spend better.”

Local government transparency is also a major initiative at the Comptroller’s office and a focus of www.TexasTransparency.org. The agency encourages Texas cities, counties, school districts and other special districts to provide online access to their budgets, financial reports and check registers. By offering a clear look at local expenditures online, more than 120 local governments across Texas have recently earned a place in the Texas Comptroller Leadership Circle, which recognizes financial transparency efforts.

These entities provide information online in an easily accessible, user-friendly format, and many have set up features that allow taxpayers to easily drill down through spending data for more detailed information. A complete list of local governments in the Texas Comptroller Leadership Circle, sorted by city, county and school district, is available at http://www.texastransparency.org/local/leadership.php. New entities are typically added on a weekly basis.

As part of an ongoing effort to set new standards for transparency and accountability in state government, Combs has taken proactive steps since January 2007 to provide an open window on state spending.

“When we talk about transparency in terms of government spending, we’re opening financial records for public examination so taxpayers can see exactly where their money is going,” Combs said. “Increased transparency helps taxpayers hold officials accountable for the way money is spent.”

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