Legislature(2009 - 2010)BELTZ 211

04/07/2009 09:00 AM Senate STATE AFFAIRS

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved SB 2 Out of Committee
Moved CSSB 171(STA) Out of Committee
Moved SJR 17 Out of Committee
Moved CSSJR 18(STA) Out of Committee
<Pending Referral>
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                 SB   2-PUBLIC FINANCE WEBSITE                                                                              
9:05:07 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR MENARD announced the consideration of SB 2.                                                                               
SHELLY MORGAN,  Staff to Senator Bill  Wielechowski, Alaska State                                                               
Legislature, said  SB 2  is identical  to SB  201 of  2008, which                                                               
passed unanimously  through the Senate  last year. The  intent is                                                               
to mandate the  creation of a free searchable  website to provide                                                               
Alaskans  with  easy  access to  detailed  information  on  state                                                               
spending.   It  will   foster  better   understanding  of   state                                                               
operations  and insure  that  funding goes  to  the state's  most                                                               
important needs.  Similar websites  are being created  across the                                                               
country. The Federal Funding  Accountability and Transparency Act                                                               
become  law  in 2006  and  calls  for  a searchable  website  for                                                               
federal contracts  and grants of  more than $25,000.  Since 2007,                                                               
13  states  have  passed legislation,  8  have  passed  executive                                                               
orders,  and  dozens  of  others  have  launched  state  spending                                                               
websites. A national consensus is  emerging that taxpayers should                                                               
be  able to  track government  spending, and  it is  advocated by                                                               
both  ends of  the  political spectrum.  Accountability and  good                                                               
decision  making  requires  an  informed  public.  Alaska  has  a                                                               
checkbook online that is a  great step in providing transparency.                                                               
It has about 90  hits per day. Most come from  new visitors. SB 2                                                               
will  provide  for more  of  a  big  picture for  the  layperson.                                                               
Alaskans  will be  able to  track  trends over  a ten-year  span.                                                               
Annual  revenue and  expenditures will  be summarized  by source,                                                               
function, department,  and account. Individuals can  then pull up                                                               
more detailed  information. Revenues  will be updated  monthly to                                                               
include  proceeds from  taxes, agency  earnings, interest,  lease                                                               
payments,  gifts, donations,  and federal  receipts. Expenditures                                                               
will  include name,  location, and  amount dispersed.  SB 2  also                                                               
requires an  accounting of the  total number of  state employees,                                                               
which can  be done with a  simple bar chart. The  website will be                                                               
presented in  a clear manner  that every Alaskan  can understand.                                                               
The  fiscal note  is  zero. It  can be  done  by existing  staff.                                                               
Alaskans have a right to see how their dollars are spent.                                                                       
9:10:48 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR MENARD asked if the administration is supportive.                                                                         
SCOT  AREHART,  Data  Processing Manager,  Division  of  Finance,                                                               
Department of Administration (DOA), said DOA supports the bill.                                                                 
SENATOR FRENCH asked if the checkbook  is now online and what the                                                               
bill will add.                                                                                                                  
MR. AREHART said the majority of  what is covered in this bill is                                                               
already   online.  The   bill  will   add  full-time   employees.                                                               
"Currently  we're underway  in  a  project to  get  all of  AKPAY                                                               
[state  payroll   system]  data  into  the   ALDER  [Alaska  Data                                                               
Enterprise Reporting]  warehouse. The ALDER data  warehouse feeds                                                               
the current financial portion that's covered in this bill."                                                                     
9:12:33 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  MORGAN  said  this  bill  will go  into  statute  so  future                                                               
governors will have to do the same thing.                                                                                       
CHAIR MENARD said  this is a lofty goal, and  she can't imagine a                                                               
zero fiscal  note. Someone  has to  do the work,  and there  is a                                                               
hiring freeze in Alaska.                                                                                                        
SENATOR  MEYER  asked  if  additional  security  is  required  to                                                               
protect the website from hackers.                                                                                               
MR.  AREHART said  no; no  confidential information  will appear.                                                               
All of it is fed through the data warehouse.                                                                                    
9:14:35 AM                                                                                                                    
MEADE  TREADWELL,   Senior  Fellow,   Institute  of   the  North,                                                               
Anchorage, said  he is a  member of  Alaskans for Tax  Reform. He                                                               
has   phoned  leaders   from  other   states.  He   applauds  the                                                               
administration  for  putting  the checkbook  online  and  Senator                                                               
Wielechowski for  sponsoring SB 2.  This is good  government, and                                                               
he is  not worried about  the costs. Improvements will  be called                                                               
for  by the  public. He  recommended a  process for  evolving the                                                               
website,  like  an annual  hearing  by  the legislature.  When  a                                                               
governor submits a  budget, it would be useful to  have it in the                                                               
same kind of format. The bill is important.                                                                                     
9:17:00 AM                                                                                                                    
SANDRA  FABRY,  Government  Affairs Manager,  Americans  for  Tax                                                               
Reform, Washington  DC, said  she has submitted  a letter  to the                                                               
committee. She  appreciates the efforts  of the governor  and the                                                               
DOA. It  is important to  codify the  language. It is  a buzzword                                                               
now, but  by having it in  statute will make sure  that taxpayers                                                               
will have  this tool to  hold government more accountable  in the                                                               
future. Many states  are putting it into  statute. Alaska already                                                               
has the online checkbook, so costs  can be kept to a minimum. The                                                               
more complex the  website, the more likely it  will contribute to                                                               
saving money.  States are  saving millions  of dollars  by having                                                               
this inventory  at their disposal.  Texas has already  saved $8.7                                                               
million  in  the first  year.  South  Carolina is  getting  fewer                                                               
[costly] freedom-of-information requests.                                                                                       
MS. FABRY recommended providing a  link to the actual expenditure                                                               
document under  which an expense is  made. Alaska was one  of the                                                               
first  states to  increase transparency  in government  spending,                                                               
but  other states  are  quickly  catching up.  By  passing SB  2,                                                               
Alaska will continue to be at the forefront.                                                                                    
9:20:29 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  FRENCH  moved  to  report   SB  2  from  committee  with                                                               
individual  recommendations and  attached  fiscal note(s).  There                                                               
being no objection, the bill moved out of committee.                                                                            

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