The question isn’t why the state should implement a website aimed at sharing information about what our public servants do with our tax money.

The question is why it shouldn’t.

And we might also ask why we don’t have such a system already.

As our state officials continue to haggle with one another over the shape our next budget will take, there are some excellent ideas being floated.

One, put forth by some Republican members of the Legislature, is to establish the Louisiana Checkbook. The computer system, modeled after a similar one that is up and running in Ohio.

The general idea is as simple as it is noble: Create one place where anyone can go online and find out exactly how their tax money is being spent.

Sure, the politicians on either side of the debate can haggle over exactly how the website will look, how much it will cost and what the timeframe is for getting it going.

But the overriding public concern here is increased scrutiny over public spending. It is difficult to imagine a reason anyone wouldn’t want such a system.

And the significance of it stretches beyond the idea of informing the public. The thought that everyone is keeping an eye on spending will be a powerful motivator.

“It’s amazing what you do when somebody’s watching you, said state Treasurer John Schroder, one of the effort’s proponents. “Transparency leads to accountability.”

We should want everyone to have as much information as is feasible and affordable to share. And this would give state residents a great way to stay informed and keep a watchful eye over a government that needs to be watched.

Some have pointed out that the information system could be expensive to install and might require other technological upgrades so the various departments of state government are using compatible software. While that is a valid concern, the public benefits of a transparent government far outweigh any reasonable expense in establishing it.

Ohio was able to get its website operational in about two years at a cost of just over $800,000. In the scheme of a state budget that stretches into the tens of billions of dollars, that sort of expense is more than reasonable. Even if other upgrades increase the cost, it is a tool that should return more than its expense in the form of oversight and knowledge.

Let’s get this excellent idea moving forward.

 

Editorials represent the opinion of the newspaper, not of any individual.