Our view: Public has right to know how tax dollars are usedWhile hundreds, perhaps thousands, of other measures are stalled or stalling in St. Paul, a bill worthy of cheer by Minnesota taxpayers is moving encouragingly closer to law.
While hundreds, perhaps thousands, of other measures are stalled or stalling in St. Paul, a bill worthy of cheer by Minnesota taxpayers is moving encouragingly closer to law.
The bill would require the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board to make public more information than it has been about clients seeking public money. Its sponsor, Rep. Tom Anzelc, DFL-Balsam Township, consulted data-privacy experts to write the legislation, and he said in a News Tribune story yesterday it is now in the House Civil Law Omnibus Bill.
Anzelc’s measure specifically would repeal secrecy provisions passed by the Minnesota Legislature in 2008. They were passed, Anzelc said, to shield from public view the books of Excelsior Energy, as the News Tribune’s Peter Passi reported. The company borrowed about $9.5 million from the IRRRB but so far hasn’t delivered on its plan to construct a power plant on the Iron Range fueled by gasified coal.
Despite that, and despite the public’s hunger for open government and for transparency, some in the Legislature are skittish about Anzelc’s measure.
“If we require too much information to be made public, it could be a detriment to development,” Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, said in in the News Tribune. “I would hope that any bill that passes doesn’t cause a roadblock.”
No one wants to be a detriment to progress. But when public money is being doled out — whether by the millions or more, or even by lesser amounts — the public has a right to know how it’s being spent. Taxpayers deserve the chance to determine for themselves whether their tax money is being used appropriately. Only then can they hold their government and elected leaders accountable.
Without disclosure, the public is left to wonder whether deals are shady, something for which none of us should stand.
Any company that doesn’t want the public to know what it’s doing has no business asking for public tax money.
Anzelc’s bill deserves the help it’ll need to become law. That could come in the form of conference-committee action or via a companion bill in the Senate.
The aim certainly is admirable — and worthy of enthusiasm from taxpayers: making sure their money, their tax money, is being spent for proper public good.