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Want to follow the money? Planned state Web site will help

TALLAHASSEE — How much of your tax dollars do state workers earn? What is each state contract worth?

With the click of a computer mouse, Floridians could soon start finding out all the answers on a new Web site that the Florida Senate wants to build.

"This puts Florida's checkbook online," said Sen. Don Gaetz, a Niceville Republican.

But the new Transparency Florida initiative won't start up overnight. An initial version should be up and running by July.

It won't be free, either. Estimated cost: $500,000 to launch, and $75,000 to maintain. State workers — rather than an outside vendor — would operate the site.

"The savings could be many-fold," said Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales. "We could effectively turn 18 million Floridians into auditors to make sure we're spending every dollar as frugally as possible."

The state's $65.4 billion budget and much of its documentation are online now, but it's not user friendly and parts of it can be unintelligible to the uninitiated. Under the Transparency Florida site, senators say, Floridians can click on Frequently Asked Questions.

"This book is almost impossible for me to go through," said Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate. "The only people who would really be opposed to this sort of Web site, this sort of transparency, are people who would be afraid that other people would actually find out what they put in the budget."

Also, viewers should be able to find trust-fund balances, historical spending data, payroll information and records of individual checks for contracts. None is available online now.

Gov. Charlie Crist, who has pledged to run "the most open administration," praised the initiative.

Marc Caputo can be reached at mcaputo@MiamiHerald.com.

Want to follow the money? Planned state Web site will help 03/11/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 11, 2009 5:22pm]
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