After state and local government officials across the country abruptly shut down the economy last month to combat the coronavirus pandemic, Congress quickly passed a “stimulus” package. That package included not only money for individuals and small businesses, but also support for state and local government. For the private individuals and businesses who lost their incomes as a result of government action, compensation was appropriate.
But if local governments are going to receive taxpayer money to support their continued operation, they should be required to report all of their spending as a condition of that support. The simplest way to accomplish this would be for Congress to pass a law instituting the requirement, and if rumors hold true the vehicle for such an update may be yet another stimulus package. But the principle is one we’ve articulated again and again: If local government can take your money, it should tell you how it spent the money. We are all Federal taxpayers, and as Federal taxpayers, we have a right to know exactly how our money is being used in our own state and across the country.
Accordingly, local governments receiving this money should be required to report their spending in a machine-readable format. Local governments already keep these accounting records; it is appropriate those records are made public.