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Missouri expands website to watch government spending

Missouri citizens will now have an expanded ability to check-up on state government and it’s spending habits. A new public-facing portal for state monetary data aims to be a significant update on an existing solution launched more than a decade ago.

The Show-Me Checkbook, which went live on Aug. 21, is designed to be a “one-stop shop” for residents to find data on state spending and revenue as well as payroll, debt obligations and cash flow. It’s populated by more than 20 million data points, with roughly 10,000 new data points added each day.

The Show-Me Checkbook, named for the state’s unofficial slogan, offers users direct access to six areas of financial data via five buttons on its front page — expenditures, revenue, payroll, liabilities and cash flow. Clicking through to cash flow, for example, quickly reveals the state’s July budget reserve fund status of nearly $640 million, along with chartings of budget reserve fund loan by fiscal year; and general revenue fund cash flow. The main page, meanwhile, highlights the state’s fiscal year 2018 budget amount of $28 billion; its Triple A credit rating; and aggregates revenue fund expenditures and gross payroll year-to-date by agency.

In an interview with Government Technology, state Treasurer Eric Schmitt said improving accountability and transparency has been one of his key goals, since the term-limited former state senator ran for and won the post in 2016. Much has changed in the tech world since the 2007 launch of the original Missouri Accountability Portal, Schmitt said, and the need to improve governmental performance has grown exponentially.

A report released in April by the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), Following the Money 2018: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data, gave Missouri a D+ grade overall and was a wake-up call. The nonprofit advocate for the public interest rated the state as “lagging” in online access to agency spending data and ranked it tied with Maine in 39th place.

PIRG noted Missouri featured a “subtotaling function” in its “checkbook-level spending” data then available — one of just three states to offer that — but noted the information available from “lagging” states was generally “less accessible or complete” than in higher-scoring states.

“There was a lot of room for improvement. We wanted to do it right, we wanted to take our time and we’re really pleased with what we think people are going to find. And we think that kind of accountability and transparency will lead to greater policy solutions and better outcomes,” Schmitt said.