ST. PAUL — The Heritage Foundation has long believed that a more informed populace will lead to greater government accountability and less wasteful spending. That is why we were so eager to partner with the Sunlight Foundation on their Exposing Earmarks project. In that same spirit, we are very proud to feature a guest post today from Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt:
I established the Missouri Accountability Portal to equip taxpayers with new power to hold the government accountable for what it spends. In the year since the spotlight came on, our site has received more than 10 million hits as more people are using this powerful new tool for open government.
The taxpayer has no greater friend than Grover Norquist, who has shined the light on elected officials and candidates who want to raise taxes as well as progressive efforts like ours to provide taxpayers with greater information on how government spends their tax dollars. We know why politicians want to raise taxes: so they can spend more money. If people cannot see what the government is doing, we have government in secret. The bottom line is that public scrutiny is a vital firewall against wasteful and uncontrolled spending.
Missouri is a low tax state, but Missourians still pay more than $3,500 per capita in state and local taxes annually, according to the Tax Foundation. There were some who wanted me to raise taxes when I became governor to address an inherited $1.1 billion deficit. We did not raise taxes. We cut taxes — three times. Each time, public awareness of the link between taxes and spending has been very important in securing legislative majorities.
Every citizen has a right to know where and how their money is being spent. Citizens are supposed to hold us accountable. This principle is a bedrock of democratic self-government. At 25,000 site hits per day and total hits now nearly twice our state population, it is clear that people are eager for more and better knowledge about the state’s checkbook.
The Missouri Accountability Portal is a free, online tool that provides ready access data about how elected officials and agencies spend hard-earned tax dollars. The Internet site is located at http://mapyourtaxes.mo.gov
My administration built the MAP with existing resources, without new spending. We update information at the close of each business day. Users can search the MAP by budget category, vendor or contract. They can also view the salaries of all state employees as well as see who is benefiting from the state’s tax credits.
Missouri is among the few states in good financial shape. We have a surplus, lower taxes and spending growth that has been brought under control for the first time since the 1990s. We have increased aid to education at all levels, which was being raided by liberals to fund out-of-control costs in social welfare programs.
There have been no job-killing tax increases, nor any other kind of tax increase — if there are other kinds.
We can control spending. All this means is that the government has more than enough money already, and needs to do a better job with what it takes right now. We can cut taxes, save money and modernize government. We have proven it, in fidelity to our motto, as the Show-Me State.
Opening the books to inspection by any citizen with an Internet connection is a vital step toward the goal that Grover Norquist and I share with millions of Americans — government that is open, efficient and pro-taxpayer.