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Proposal to expand online government information

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By Barry Massey

SANTA FE —  New Mexicans could track spending by state agencies under a proposal that would create a Web portal for access to government information.

The measure by Sen. Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque, has the support of Democratic Lt. Gov. Diane Denish.

“People want the right and need the right to easily access as much information as possible about New Mexico’s government and how their tax dollars are being spent,” Denish told a news conference Tuesday with Rue.

The legislation requires the Department of Information Technology to establish a Web site by July 2011 to provide a wide range of information about state government, including the operating budgets of agencies, their monthly expenditures, revenue collections from fees and taxes, a summary of state investment accounts and a directory of government jobs and their salaries.

However, the bill won’t require the listing of government jobs to disclose the names of workers in those positions although that’s a public record under state law.

Most agencies and state offices have Web sites, but there’s no law directing them to post online certain records and data that they maintain. The legislation will create a central online location for state government and will offer links to agencies and the services they provide.

Information on government spending initially will be limited to executive branch agencies because that is readily available through the state’s central finance system. That means New Mexicans won’t be able use the proposed Web site to look at expenditures by public schools, colleges and universities, which account for nearly 60 percent of state spending.

Rue said the Web site, once established, can be improved and more information should become available to the public.