Updated: Friday, 03 Apr 2009, 3:42 PM CDT
Published : Saturday, 04 Apr 2009, 2:30 PM CDT
AUSTIN (KXAN) - Transparency is the key to any successful government. With the stimulus money slowing making its way to Texas, the state's comptroller, Susan Combs decided to show Texans exactly where the money was going to go.
"Our office is closely reviewing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to determine what it means for Texas," said Combs. "We will share information we have compiled so far and continually update the Web page as federal agencies provide more guidance on the funding included in this complex and far-reaching plan."
The comptroller's purpose of this site was to help state and local officials and business leaders to track the billions for Texas. The site is similar to the Federal site, Recovery.gov, that notes where every dollar is allocated. However, the Combs' office thought of this site before Obama took office.
Texas comptroller spokesperson RJ DeSilva explained how the office took on transparency as a huge initiative in 2007.
The office formed "searchable databases where you can go find information on vendors...supplies that the state buys," said DeSilva. "With that as a foundation, when the stimulus bill passed, certainly on the Federal level, there's an emphasis on transparency. From our standpoint, we had the local foundation, in that we had transparency in place already. So that's where the idea from this Web page came."
The Web page is fully equiped with lots of information already. On the site, there is a place where anyone can sign up to receive the most up-to-date information about the stimulus bill and its impact on Texas. There are many grant and funding opportunities in Texas through the stimulus, and the site has a list of them for everyone to see. Also, the stimulus includes contracting opportunities which the site lays out clearly.
"We're helping people understand what different aspects of the stimulus package are out there," said DeSilva. "We've got spreadsheets in terms of describing the different programs and different agencies that will get them money and we'll just keep moving on from there, in terms of at some point, tracking the money as it comes to the state."
The question remains: Will the public use it? Some political experts are remain skeptical.
"I think if Texans are aware of it, they may use it," said Veronica Stidvent, director of the LBJ School Center for Politics and Governance. "First, people have to learn that it exists, and that is the challenge in getting information to the public."
DeSilva thinks the general public may not utilize it extensively, however, he thinks another group of people will find it extremely useful.
"I think, certainly part of the push is for local governments to use it," said DeSilva. "A huge chunk of the stimulus money is going to flow through state agencies or existing programs...but there's also quite a bit of money out there for local governments, for businesses, small businesses that could apply for this money directly. We have seen interest in it after we launched it."
Stidvent feels there are ways this stimulus can help Texas.
"I think there are some aspects that may help the economy," said Stidvent. "Like any large piece of legislation, the devil is in the details. As a general matter, it is difficult to address complex economic policy issues quickly and precisely."
The comptroller's officer is trying to remain proactive in keeping the Texas public informed on the reinvestment act. Stidvent feels the government still has a lot to do during this stimulus process.
"During times of crisis, the American public can have little tolerance for delay and inaction," said Stidvent. "But, often what is needed is thoughtful, measured response. I would hope that our elected officials would put good governance ahead of short-term political gain and take the time necessary to arrive at the right policy."
The Web site is updated daily and will track every penny in Texas once the stimulus money starts rolling in to the Lone Star State.
To view the full interview with DeSilva, watch below: