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A Republican Introduces a Bill to Make Government More Accountable
02/13/2017 Taxation Seth L
keywords: Government Transparency Taxpayers right to know

Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) has introduced bill S. 317 — what he calls "The Taxpayers' Right to Know Act." This bill, originally co-sponsored by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), would mandate that the government report the performance metrics, expenses and details of all federal programs costing more than $1 million. Right now, taxpayers are unable to get this information all in one place and see where their tax money is going.

"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," said Lankford. "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 efficiency and accountability. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the days ahead to pass this important legislation."

Said Sen. McCaskill of the bill, "Transparency is the first step toward accountability — and it’s a pretty commonsense concept that taxpayers have the right to know where their money is being spent. I’ve spent my career rooting out waste, fraud and abuse, and this bill will be a helpful tool in making sure the government is carefully guarding tax dollars from waste."

Co-sponsor Sen. Johnson stated, "This commonsense bill would provide much-needed tools to identify ineffective and duplicative government programs to cut bureaucracy and save taxpayer money." The bill would require all government agencies to contribute data to an online database that would produce an annual report card for taxpayers and show them the beneficiaries and number of employees served by all federal programs.

Lankford has been working on this legislation since 2011 when he joined the House of Representatives from Oklahoma's 5th District. That year, the bill was introduced as HR 3609, while former Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma introduced the Senate version of the legislation. When those bills failed to pass, Lankford re-introduced the bill in 2013 as HR 1423, and it passed the House, but failed to be voted on in the Senate. In 2015, as a Senator, Lankford introduced it as S. 282, and an accompanying House bill sponsored by former Republican Representative Tim Walberg passed in early 2016. Despite former President Obama supporting Lankford's Senate bill, it was never voted on.

The current version of the bill passed the House unanimously in January of this year. Other co-sponsors of the bill in the Senate are Senators Steve Daines (R-MT), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Rob Portman (R-OH), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and John McCain (R-AZ).

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