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A boost for transparent government - and nosy neighbors

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What is everyone doing now that the Illinois comptroller's office has gone online with a new website that makes it easier to check how Illinois spends its money?

If you guessed they're examining the state's enormous backlog of unpaid bills or checking contract data to make sure the state is getting the best value for its money, you'd be wrong.

As of Tuesday morning, a day after going online, the site christened "The Ledger" had 8,000 hits. And what people were checking most, Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka said, is the employee salary data base. They want to know how much money their neighbor or co-worker makes.

Topinka said much of the information on the new site was already available in various places online, but "The Ledger" is more complete and puts everything in one place.

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Judy Baar Topinka (M. Spencer Green~AP)

"It's the most comprehensive financial portal that Illinois has ever seen," she said Tuesday.

Among other information visitors to the website can see are the balance of the general fund, state financial reports and bond rating information. It also gives detailed salary information of new hires. The site, which is updated daily, eventually will have a link to Chicago's website, which Topinka said is "a pretty good one." (As for Cook County's site? Not so good, Topinka said.)

For good government types, public contracts can be matched against campaign contributions.

"Should there be any tomfoolery, you might see it there," Topinka said.

Topinka also is pushing for all local governments to link to the site, so that people can see how they spend their money, too.

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"If we can, we'll peddle this to all the states," she said. "If Congress would do something something similar to this, it would be helpful because who knows what they do?"

Some other information from The Ledger's official FAQ sheet:

- The Ledger gets its data from the Comptroller's Information Warehouse, which is updated every night.

- The website was developed entirely by the comptroller's staff using existing resources.

- You can download information in a PDF format.

- You can submit a Freedom of Information Act request directly from the website.

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This page contains a single entry by Thomas Frisbie published on April 3, 2012 12:36 PM.

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