Simpson calls for transparency; cites executive branch culture of secrecy

Senate Democrat Leader Vi Simpson announced in a media availability today that Senate Democrats plan to introduce legislation to enhance transparency in state government budgeting and spending.

Citing a culture of secrecy within the executive branch, Simpson said there is a critical need for transparency. Specifically, Simpson says she is shocked by the lack of public information available on program cuts and on the use of taxpayer money for economic development incentives.

The governor refers to Indiana as the island of prosperity. We’re the island of secrets. – Senate Democrat Leader Vi Simpson

LISTEN: Simpson says, “It is really a matter of trust…”

In her statements to the press, Simpson outlined previous requests dating back to January asking for a comprehensive list of cuts made to state services and programs. The State Budget Agency has indicated that a comprehensive list of cuts does not exist.

Today Simpson sent letters to the head of each state agency asking for a list of the agency’s implemented and proposed cuts by program, the methodology used to determine how the cuts are made, implementation dates of all budget cuts and personnel layoffs, expected reversions by program, and the estimated impact of cuts on people served by each program. State agencies were ordered to cut 10% in FY2010 and were notified in April that the governor wants 15% budget reversions from each agency’s budget in FY2011.

LISTEN: Simpson told reporters, “The public has a right to this information. The public has a right to know what allocations have been held back…”

She also cited a recent report by the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs) that gave Indiana a F in providing online access to government spending data. A media report last week found that IEDC has claimed unsubstantiated job creation figures and is withholding information on how state job incentive dollars are being spent. Simpson said the state’s disclosure laws can be clarified if IEDC interprets those laws in a ways that allows them to keep such information from the public.

LISTEN: Simpson says the actions of the executive branch should be a matter of public record.

LISTEN: Simpson said Senate Democrats will be working on legislation for the 2011 session that will enhance transparency in state, including:

  • Easy online access to budget and spending information
  • Updates from the State Budget Agency on agency and program funding cuts
  • Pay to play disclosure on political contributors awarded state contracts
  • Clarification of the state’s disclosure laws related to economic development and trade secrets

Here is a timeline of the requests regarding state program cuts from Sen. Simpson and Rep. Bill Crawford and responses from the State Budget Agency:

January 14:  Sen. Simpson letter to Governor Mitch Daniels

January 26: State Budget Director Ruhl response to Sen. Simpson

April 29: House Ways and Means Chairman Crawford letter to Budget Director Ruhl

May 6: Budget Director Ruhl response to Chairman Crawford

May 7: Sen. Simpson response to Budget Director Ruhl

June 1: Sen. Simpson letter to agency heads

Watch the full media availability in the videos below:

Statement, Pt. I

Statement, Pt. II

Q & A, Pt. I

Q & A, Pt. II