Ohio Checkbook demonstration highlights LABI annual meeting agenda

    Frank Kohstall, the director of public affairs for the Ohio Treasurer’s office, will discuss the creation of the Ohio Checkbook, a website allowing citizens to track and investigate that state’s government spending, at the Feb. 8 annual meeting of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.

    Kohstall will participate in an hour-long panel discussion called “Reimagining Louisiana: Bolder Vision, Brighter Future,” where he will demonstrate the online portal and showcase how it has set a standard for government accountability. The panel also will include economist Loren Scott and Louisiana State Treasurer John Schroder.

    LABI, the state chapter of Americans For Prosperity and GOP lawmakers have seized on the idea of replicating the Ohio Checkbook in Louisiana. On Wednesday, House Republicans released a wishlist of spending controls they want from Gov. John Bel Edwards in exchange for considering taxes to fill the state’s looming $1 billion budget gap. Among the wants: a new website to track state spending.

    Schroder, who campaigned on the idea, says he has no doubt Louisianacheckbook.com is needed.

    “Transparency is not a partisan issue; it is something that every elected official should proudly embrace,” he says in a statement. “I am committed to working with anyone to get this right, as long as the result makes it easy for taxpayers to see exactly how government spends their money.”

    The governor’s office in a statement says Edwards is committed to expanding and improving government transparency in Louisiana, noting the state ranked 7th in providing access to government spending data, according to the 2016 U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s “Follow the Money” report. Ohio was No.1 in the same ranking.

    Government data in Louisiana currently can be accessed via La Trac, an online portal with data on contracts, economic incentives and expenditures, according to the administration. The state also has LaGov, a site that was originally designed to function similar to the OAKS system in Ohio. The OAKS serves as that state’s central computer system and transmits information into the Ohio Checkbook, says the administration.

    “However, under the previous administration, the effort to move all agencies onto LaGov was halted, leaving only six state agencies fully managed by LaGov,” the office says. “To date, the state has invested about $100 million, and another $26 million will be required to bring the remaining agencies on board to LaGov.” The conversion, the administration says, would be necessary to fully support any online transparency system. If funded, the conversion will be complete by July 2021. 

    See the full agenda for LABI’s annual meeting.

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