U.S. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) last week introduced the bipartisan Taxpayers Right To Know Act (S. 317) in hopes of fostering transparency in government spending. The legislation, co-sponsored by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), would require the federal government to publicly disclose the details, costs and performance metrics of every program it funds in excess of $1 million.
The legislation is meant to address growing concerns regarding a lack of spending accountability within the executive and legislative branches. That lack of accountability has led to a nearly $20 trillion national debt that is ever compounding.
Specifically, the bill would create “an online database that reports financial data and performance metrics for every federal program above $1 million,” Lankford’s office said in a press release. “The bill will require every federal agency to provide taxpayers and annual report card for all of its programs, and will require agencies to identify the number of employees and beneficiaries served by every federal program.”
Specifically, the bill would create “an online database that reports financial data and performance metrics for every federal program above $1 million”
A version of the bill passed the House of Representatives unanimously in January. That effort was led by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), who serves on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Now, it’s up to the Senate to heed the advice of Lankford, McCaskill and Johnson, and pass this bipartisan legislation immediately.
“American taxpayers deserve an efficient and effective government that identifies and eliminates wasteful and duplicative spending. The Taxpayers Right to Know Act is a big step towards that goal,” Lankford said. “The Taxpayers Right to Know Act will require the federal government to finally report its spending in a simple way for everyone to see; with more transparency comes more efficiency and accountability. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the days ahead to pass this important legislation.”
This legislation has been Lankford’s passion project since 2011, his first year in the U.S. House of Representatives. When he entered the Senate in 2015, he carried this legislative priority to the upper chamber.
“The Taxpayers Right to Know Act will require the federal government to finally report its spending in a simple way for everyone to see; with more transparency comes more efficiency and accountability.”
The most recent version of this Senate bill enjoys additional bipartisan support in its co-sponsorship: John McCain (R-Ariz.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.).
President Trump has previously expressed a desire to reform government spending practices to restore order to federal ledgers left in disarray by the previous administration. President Obama nearly doubled the national debt during his eight years in the White House, racking up more debt than all previous presidents combined.
Coupled with imperative spending reforms, Republicans in both Congress and the White House remain firm in their belief that economic growth, especially derived from tax and regulatory reform, is key to restoring fiscal sanity in Washington. Transparency in federal ledgers provide greater scrutiny on spending practices, especially those relatively unchecked in the executive branch where bureaucracy runs wild.
The Lankford bill would be a step in the right direction, if part of a larger reform effort that acknowledges the dire reality of our country’s fiscal crisis and the political courage necessary to tackle it.
Ellen Carmichael is a senior writer for Opportunity Lives. Follow her on Twitter @ellencarmichael.