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EDITORIAL: New website promotes transparency in state finances

Most campaign promises are like disappearing ink — they fade away quickly. So give state Controller Andy Matthews credit for following through on his pledge to promote transparency in state spending.

The controller serves as Nevada’s chief fiscal officer. Mr. Matthews, a former Republican state assemblyman, was elected to the office in 2022 after pledging to “be a strong voice in favor of fiscal accountability.” He told voters one of his goals was to create a website with detailed information about all state outlays.

On Tuesday, he unveiled checkbook.nv.gov. It includes a plethora of data on the state’s finances, including employee salaries, department budgets, state contract details, pension payouts, overtime pay and travel expenses. For instance, the site reveals that, so far this fiscal year, health care financing and policy ($6.77 billion) and education ($5.82 billion) have soaked up the most cash.

The site updates on a daily basis.

“This is the people’s money,” Mr. Matthews said, “and they deserve to know exactly how and where their government is spending it.”

Too many government agencies reflexively run for the shadows when the spotlight nears. It’s refreshing to see the leader of a state agency recognize that a healthy democratic republic depends on an informed citizenry.

“We can debate all day long over the question of bigger government or small government,” Mr. Matthews noted. “But we should all be able to agree on the need for open, transparent and accountable government.”

Indeed, the site will be educational for inquisitive Nevada taxpayers. By harnessing this financial information in one place, the site promotes government effectiveness while perhaps even increasing civic trust in state institutions. The Nevada portal also provides citizens with facts and figures that can help them become more knowledgeable about the activities of those who conduct business in their name.

The benefits of transparency work both ways. “When citizens know how governments are spending their taxes,” Laureline Saux wrote for opendatasoft.com, “they become more engaged.” And when governments open up the books, it helps them “run more efficiently.”

Nevada’s open meeting and open record laws are designed to advance good government, yet state and local bureaucracies routinely ignore such mandates. The website created by Mr. Matthews serves as yet another tool to foster openness and accountability — one that will be difficult for even reluctant agencies to subvert.

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