Tracking Taxes Can Be Tricky

How are your tax dollars being spent?

Local politicians from both parties seem to agree that there is a need for more transparency in the state budget, but they disagree on how to go about doing it.

A bill that would have created a searchable website to track state expenditures was killed in a House committee today, but that doesn’t mean the idea has been tossed to the wayside. During the legislature’s opening session, House Minority Leader Mike May, R-Parker, lauded a proposal by freshman lawmaker Don Marostica to “give our citizens more direct access to information about their tax dollars.”

The bill was called the Taxpayer Transparency Act, and Rep. Marostica, R-Loveland, wanted members of the public to be able to view state expenditures that exceeded $300.

Marostica said he got the idea from his constituents while campaigning:

“‘After the campaign I started thinking about it and said, ‘Why not start with the state’s checkbook and allow citizens every single day to go into the state’s checkbook and see where their money’s going?'”

The website would have provided data on grants, contracts, and sub-contracts, at a projected cost of approximately 2 million dollars over two years.

But even though state Treasurer Cary Kennedy agrees that there is a need for transparency, she said she didn’t like the cost.

“I think we can accomplish the same objective by providing full disclosure in information for taxpayers on the state’s financial transactions in a less costly way, and also in a more effective way, by making it clear and easily understandable for people who are interested in looking at where their taxes are going,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy said she is also working on a website to display financial information, with an emphasis on public literacy and inexpensive cost.

It’s no longer known when a website may be operational, or what exact information may be available to taxpayers. If anything, today’s committee meeting has shown just how tricky tracking taxes can be.

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About the Author

Erin Rosa

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature.

Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state.

Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters.

She can be reached at erosa@coloradoindependent.com.

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