It didn’t take long for newly elected Gov. Steve Bullock to do something positive to improve transparency in government.
The governor unveiled a new website — transparency.mt.gov — that opens the door to all Montanas to see the inside of the state’s checkbook.
Most payments made by the state government are included on the website.
This is a tremendous improvement over the last administration.
Gov. Brian Schweitzer vetoed a bill passed by the 2011 Legislature calling for such a website. Schweitzer said the website would be too costly and too time consuming. He said there was enough transparency already. Schweitzer was wrong.
The website offers people a great deal of information on salaries of state employees. Just two years ago, Montana Policy Institute, a conservative think tank, had to jump through all kinds of hopes to get salary information. This is information the institute was entitled to under Montana law.
If you want to see who has state contracts and how much they received from the state, if you would like to know what companies got how much money for what, you can look it up on the website. You can even find out what newspapers state officials subscribe to.
This is a giant step forward in making the operations in Helena more open to the people who pay the bills.
Montana law is already good at opening the doors of the government.
Bullock’s action are encouraging.
The new website does not include information on payroll expenditures made by the Montana University System, which has its finances on a separate computer system.
The next step in promoting state transparency should be to make sure MUS facts and figures are open to the public, just like the rest of state government.