Wither Spending Transparency in PA?

Over the past few years, and throughout the state budget debate, the Commonwealth Foundation and other state and national groups have called for state spending transparency in Pennsylvania.

And these calls have not gone unheeded by lawmakers. Three bills to create an online database of state spending, similar to transparency legislation enacted in 26 other states, have been introduced this session. The State Senate passed SB 105 – sponsored by Sen. Pat Browne – in June. In May, Rep. Jim Christiana introduced HB 1460, with 105 bipartisan cosponsors. Most recently, in late July, Rep. Mirabito introduced HB 1880 with 36 bipartisan cosponsors. Between the two House bills, 123 lawmakers – over 60% of the chamber – have signed on as co-sponsors, matching the percentage voting for the Senate bill.

But none of these bill has been advanced out of House committee, much less given a floor vote. Only the Republican Policy Committee has held a hearing on spending transparency.

What gives here? While this is characteristic of the House State Government Committee (where both House bills have been assigned), even Rep. Josephs is among the cosponsors. Are lawmakers merely posturing by cosponsoring transparency, while secretly hoping state spending never sees the light of day?

Whatever the case, it is clear that we need greater transparency before the budget cycle comes around again to better inform lawmakers, media, and taxpayers about how money is spent, and allow an open budget debate.