Kansas launches $40 million overhaul to make public records accessible online

Kansans who like to keep up on how the state spends taxpayers' money will soon have detailed budget information at the click of a mouse, reports Stateline.com.

Kansans who like to keep up on how the state spends taxpayers' money will soon have detailed budget information at the click of a mouse, reports Stateline.com.

Information such as how much the governor's office shelled out for pencils and paper will be available when the Kansas state government launches a $40 million technology upgrade to their accounting ledgers. Fifteen other states also have spending-transparency initiatives in the works, according to Americans for Tax Reform, an anti-tax group.

"There's no excuse in our age of technology to not have this information readily available and accessible to citizens," said Annie Patnaude, a spokeswoman for Americans for Prosperity, a group promoting limited government.

The Internet is the place to find all kinds of government information and more of it is coming online everyday. Google last month announced it is partnering with Arizona, California, Utah and Virginia to make online records — such as driver's licenses, real-estate records and library collections — easier to retrieve through search engines.

Kansas, however, is creating an entirely new database to host digital public records, since the existing systems are too confusing or too limited or display data that's too hard to digest for most average citizens. The current database is more than 30 years old, and the job is necessary but tedious.

"There are many people in government who say, 'We already make this information public.' But the public's idea of 'public' differs a whole lot from the political establishment's sometimes," said Pete Sepp, a spokesman for the National Taxpayers Union, another limited-government group.

The idea is for an ordinary citizen to be able to type in a word in the search box and find out quickly what spending records there are, regardless of how they're classified in an accounting system, said Sepp.