Finding out how your local public bodies and schools spend taxpayer money could soon be one click away.
A bill awaiting a vote in the Illinois Senate would make local governments and school districts with budgets of $1 million or more post basic information online. The names of elected and appointed officials, budget numbers and audit results would be online so the public could easily see how its tax dollars are being spent. Investigative Reporters and Editors Executive Director Mark Horvit said this is a public transparency issue.
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“A lot of the information that’s included in what must be posted in this bill is very basic information,” Horvit said. “There’s really no excuse for any government agency not to have this information readily available.”
Opponents of the bill said they believe it would be costly to maintain the websites. But Horvit said by putting the information online, it would save public bodies the cost of responding to individual requests for information.
“Public information officers won’t be constantly grabbing that kind of information, meaning they would be able to take more of their time to get more customized requests,” he said.
Horvit said the legislation should serve as a model of transparency for the rest of the nation. Illinois has nearly 7,000 units of local government, more than any other state.
The bill’s sponsor passed similar legislation through the House in 2015, but it stalled in the Senate.
The bill would not apply to state government offices and the General Assembly.