SPECIAL SESSION 2018: Republican leaders call for a new budget transparency website

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - As part of the ongoing budget negotiations, some Republican lawmakers are pushing for a new website tracking state spending.

Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, and others are calling for Louisiana to get its own version of the OhioCheckbook.com website. Launched by the Ohio State Treasurer in 2014, that website allows people in the Buckeye state to keep tabs on the state budget - in some cases down to the penny.

"It is probably one of the most interactive tools out there," Barras told fellow lawmakers, arguing it will help them rein in the budget down the road.

The Ohio website is rather interactive, with colorful pie charts breaking down billions of dollars in state spending. It allows individuals to sort through the budgets of individual agencies, looking at money spent on everything from maintenance to salaries.

The site also includes a Google-type search bar. Typing in anything from Amazon Prime to TJ Maxx will bring up results, showing how much the state spent on purchases from different companies.

However, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne said here in Louisiana, a website like this cannot be built overnight. Speaking before lawmakers, Dardenne explained that in order for a Louisiana version of the website to have the same functionality, the state computer system will need an upgrade. Dardenne said that the upgrade is currently ongoing and costs approximately $30 million to complete.

Louisiana also already has a spending website, which Dardenne says they have been working to improve. He said it would be more cost-effective to keep upgrading that site rather than pay for an outside company to come in and set it up.

"We're moving toward doing everything that is sought to be accomplished in the bill already," he said.

Whatever the final website may look like, however, there is one thing it cannot do: fix the state's current budget crisis.

The bill pushing for a new website is awaiting a vote in the House of Representatives, which could happen as soon as Wednesday. If it passes, it then needs to gain approval in the Senate.

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