LABI rallies support for ‘Louisiana Checkbook’ website

    The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry rallied support of an online government transparency website called Louisiana Checkbook at its annual meeting today, hosting a demonstration of a similar program in Ohio.

    But the event also brought friction between the business group—which hosted a morning panel featuring economist Loren Scott, State Treasurer John Schroder and an official with the office of the Ohio Treasurer—and Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration.

    The Louisiana Checkbook, which is being pushed by a coalition of business groups and others, would put all public spending in one place where users could easily review spending. LABI President and CEO Stephen Waguespack also said he supports putting tax expenditures, along with all documents that are public records, on the website.

    Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne sent Waguespack a letter last week asking to be part of the morning panel, which included an Ohio official who demonstrated the Ohio Checkbook. Dardenne touted the state’s current spending tracking system, LaTrac, and said it would be a “mistake to start all over again with a new system that is perceived to be better because it may have a catchier name.”

    Waguespack declined to add Dardenne to the panel, but allowed Randy Davis, assistant commissioner for policy and personnel, to address the crowd afterward. Davis said the administration backs transparency, but said the implementation of a new system had to wait until state government fully integrates with the ERP system, which he said would allow for the high level of detail that Ohio presents in its program. The previous administration began agency integration years ago but halted it before it was over, Dardenne said in his letter.

    Schroder and Waguespack shot back after the event, saying that waiting the two to three years it will take to integrate government agencies is unnecessary, and arguing the Legislature and governor should move forward with the Louisiana Checkbook model as soon as possible.

    Later, Gov. John Bel Edwards, who spoke ahead of conservative commentator Laura Ingraham, the keynote speaker for the event, said he supports the Louisiana Checkbook idea.

    “There’s not an objection from me,” Edwards said. “We just need to make sure we can do it in a reasonable fashion.”

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