Show me the money

March 14, 2011

Politics

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By Stephen McDill

Hinds County and others not compliant with SeeTheSpending.org data requests
In talking with the Mississippi Center for Public Policy president Forest Thigpen, MBJ-TV has learned more about the non-profit, non-partisan organization’s most recent project called SeeTheSpending.org.

Thigpen, a Delta State alum and former Thad Cochran staffer, says people have gone to the website by the thousands “looking for exactly how the government is spending their money.”

SeeTheSpending.org tracks millions of dollars from hundreds of state agency budgets – MDA, DFA, Fair Commission, Board of Massage Therapy (yes, really there is one)- and shows how those tax dollars are put to work.

The “penny constituency” – i.e., voters – can find out how much the Governor’s Mansion recently spent on power ($5,724.52 to Entergy) and laundry ($148.20 to Hallmark Cleaners). Or how much the Mississippi Development Authority spent on “promotional expenditures” at 930 Blues Club in Jackson — $1,500.

“We have seven years of data … the search function is a business check,” Thigpen says. “What’s we’re in the final stages of … is to put county spending online.”

Thigpen calls the process of filing public information requests with all 82 counties an “interesting exercise.”
While most of the state has responded to the requests, Thigpen says he’s still waiting to hear from Hinds County.

“Hinds County has not responded at all,” Thigpen says. “They’re by law required to respond within seven days. When we submitted the request it was at the end of last fiscal year and it was 14 days. We actually intentionally did it before the new law went into effect to give them a little extra time to respond.”

Thigpen says that while he and his staff have predominantly focused on the compliant counties and getting those records online, he intends to follow up with the unresponsive counties soon.

“We’ll be returning to pursue some of these folks and we’ll have to take some of them to court.”

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About Stephen McDill

Stephen McDill joined the Mississippi Business Journal in 2008 after working in radio and television. He is a graduate of Belhaven University and has won awards for his writing and photojournalism from the Associated Press and Mississippi Press Association.

View all posts by Stephen McDill

One Response to “Show me the money”

  1. Earl Bryan Says:

    Property taxes have increased in recent years even in a declining real estate market, and tax payers have little say in how much tax the county charges property owners.
    Now when spending data is readily available on line in most other Mississippi counties, Newton county does not participate. What do our officials have to hide about the way tax funds are being spent?
    Newton County needs to get on board now.

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