◼ TAX DOLLARS FOCUS
◼ PUBLIC ACCESS ISSUE
◼ SOME WANT COST CUTS
JEFFERSON CITY – A team comprised of Rep. Peggy McGaugh and Missouri Press Association leaders is at work to assure the public continues to have access to financial information about county spending.
Some county officials say they want to save money by taking away many people’s ability to have ready access to such information.
“We’ve worked closely with Representative McGaugh,” MPA President Mark Maassen said outside a budget hearing room where she prepared for a meeting.
“My bill was heard in committee,” McGaugh said. “It was well-taken. There were good questions and the press association testified for it, which gives us a lot of ‘cred.’”
McGaugh’s similar bill failed last year. That bill would have posted county financial statements online, taking them out of newspapers. MPA weighed in, explaining some information could go online, but many people lack computer access, would not know where to find notices if they had access and many prefer to read the information in print.
This year, the better-refined bill is making progress. Specifically, the bill requires second-, third- and fourth-class counties to publish in print “the name and current gross annual salary of each elected or appointed county official, whose pay is set by the county salary commission. The House Local Government Committee on Feb. 4 voted 12-0 to pass the bill without amendments.
Maassen said McGaugh’s bill would keep the financial statement in papers, though in a more condensed form.
“Class one counties (including Clay), already do a condensed version,” he said. “This would make it the same for classes two, three and four.”
McGaugh said this incarnation of the legislation has a good chance to pass.
“I’ve got a good feeling about it this year,” she said.
Having the information in print is important to the public, Maassen said.
“Every county needs to know what’s going on down at the courthouse,” he said. “This outlines all the expenditures and what the county’s doing as far as spending, so this is extremely important. If they don’t get this, it’s hard to say what might happen.”
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, said he is pleased that McGaugh and the MPA have worked together on the legislation.
“I am carrying that bill on the Senate side,” he said. “It’s very valuable to have that information in the paper; maybe a little bit more in a summary form.”
In northwest Missouri, easy electronic viewing of records is not an option for many residents, Hegeman said.
“We suffer from lack of broadband and great internet access,” he said.
‘Every county needs to know what’s going on down at the courthouse.’
MISSOURI PRESS ASSOCIATION