True Massachusetts Government Transparency: SHOW US THE MONEY

By Carla Howell and Michael Cloud
Originally published 2-8-08 (updated/condensed 3-31-10)

An Open Letter to the Massachusetts State Legislature

Honorable Legislators,

On behalf of the 3,400,000+ taxpayers of Massachusetts,

For the purposes of Massachusetts state government transparency and accountability,

We request that you show us the money: open the books for all Massachusetts State Government income and spending.

We ask that you post the last 10 years of Massachusetts state government total yearly spending on an open, free, easily readable, and easily accessible website. All “on-” and “off-budget” transactions.

Taxpayers shouldn’t need to make a request under the Public Records Law (Massachusetts’ version of the federal Freedom of Information Act) to find out where the money comes from and where it goes.

Taxpayers shouldn’t have to be Certified Public Accountants to follow the money in Massachusetts state government.

We request that you make each year’s total state government spending easily readable and understandable by average 12 year old students in the Massachusetts public school system.

Why not? Yearly state government spending records aren’t calculus or trigonometry. They’re simple addition and subtraction.

All 3,400,000+ Massachusetts taxpayers should be able to browse this online state government spending website and see exactly where the money comes from and where it goes.

Detective novels tell us to follow the money.

Taxpayers should be able to easily find out which individuals and organizations are getting the money we pay in taxes.  Government employees. Contractors. Suppliers and vendors. Non-profits. Hospitals. Financial institutions. Colleges. Researchers. Other recipients of subsidies, grants, and loans.

This will help eliminate even the appearance of political favoritism, sweetheart deals, conflicts-of-interest, bribery, or corruption.

It will help taxpayers identify and call attention to overcharges, under-performance, and poor returns on tax spending. It will let taxpayers shine a spotlight on previously unnoticed government overspending and waste.

Opening the books will allow us to prioritize state spending – and compare the importance of each expenditure with the importance of keeping that money in the hands of the taxpayers who earned it – many of whom desperately need it.

Closed Books government is secretive government.

Closed Books government is unaccountable to taxpayers. Neither morally, nor financially.

Closed Books government fosters inefficiency and ineffectiveness. It protects incompetence and irresponsibility.

Closed Books government covers up extravagances left intact while politicians cut, or threaten to cut, core services.

Closed Books government conceals and covers up 3 kinds of waste:

  • Paying champagne prices for beer quality.
  • Paying champagne prices for champagne – when you only need beer.
  • Buying champagne or beer items when you don’t need either.

Open Books government is transparent and accountable.

Open Books government shows taxpayers and voters that the Massachusetts state government has nothing to hide.

You can – and should – open and post yearly state government spending – 100% of all transactions – online on an open, free, easily readable, and easily accessible website.

Open books is priority # 1 for any legislator who’s serious about going after government waste and minimizing taxes.

We ask that you do this and do this quickly.


Transparency delayed is transparency denied.

Accountability delayed is accountability denied.

On behalf of the 3,400,000+ taxpayers and workers of Massachusetts,

On behalf of the millions of voters who will go to the Massachusetts polls this November 2nd,

Once again, we ask you to open the books of all state government revenue and spending.


Carla Howell and Michael Cloud
Alliance to Roll Back Taxes

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