Operating Without Looking At An X-Ray: Illinois Government Needs An X-Ray Machine
Issue: Government Transparency
Contact: Kate Campaigne
Download the entire brief here (PDF).
Download the Policy Point summary here (PDF).
Imagine you’re about to have heart surgery. Would you want your doctor operating on your heart in the dark? Or without looking at your x-ray first? Without an x-ray, he wouldn’t know where to operate, the severity of your sickness or understand exactly what he needs to do in order to save your life. You would not want your doctor operating on you without knowing as much information about your condition as possible.
Well, that’s what Illinois government is doing: operating without an x-ray and functioning in the dark. The state budget continues to face a daunting deficit, out-of-control spending, and lacks the tool (transparency) to measure what programs work and what programs do not. The state has little accountability in its decision-making process, and corruption charges and pay-to-play politics have further tainted any trust left in elected officials.
Illinois should implement a comprehensive transparency program that would inject sunlight into the budget process and open up the books in an online searchable database. The site would provide a complete, itemized and clear description of all the state’s expenditures including, but not limited to, all contracts, vendors, and grants. In addition, all expenditures would have a detailed account of the payment's purpose and who authorized the payment.
As a first step to getting Illinois back on track, transparency would help alleviate the long list of problems facing Illinois and assist in reforming current Illinois government into a better, more accountable and open government. Transparency not only cleans up government spending and fosters accountability; it is also the foundation of ethics reform in Illinois.
Why This Works
Transparency in government allows the public to look inside the details of government spending and helps them more clearly understand where tax dollars go – and to whom. Right now, the public, and most legislators, have little to no idea where money ends up or whether programs are working well or poorly. Implementing transparency is the first step to making Illinois government more cost-efficient, accountable and aware of its spending decisions.
Educating both the public and legislators about how government spends tax dollars makes it easier to expose corruption and pay-to-play politics. Transparency allows people to connect the dots and see who is asking for money, who authorizes what spending, and who benefits from the funding. Unless government implements transparency and stops the waste, it cannot perform its core functions as well as it could. Transparency offers a viable solution to the problems in Illinois government. Enacting it will provide the much-needed x-ray machine that will illuminate the sickness (corruption, lack of accountability, pay-to-play politics, ineffective programs, and wasteful spending) and provide a map to cleaning up and reforming Illinois government.
Was this report valuable to you?