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State opens its checkbook

By David McMillin · Bankrate.com
Friday, February 8, 2013
Posted: 6 am ET

Many consumers spend time monitoring their spending and reconciling their checking accounts, but they keep their checkbooks confidential. In Montana, Gov. Steve Bullock is making the state's checkbook publicly available, inviting residents to take a look at how the state spends its money.

"We'll have a searchable database so that any Montanan -- or anyone in the world, for that matter -- can look at how we are spending the taxpayers' money. It's the right thing to do, and it'll lead to a more effective government," Gov. Bullock said in his annual State of the State address.

Citizens can visit Transparency.mt.gov to get a close-up view of where their money is going. As I browsed the online checkbook, I saw detailed lists of expenses, including items as small as a $6.76 charge for office supplies and a $4 charge for an elk permit. Who knew elk permits were that affordable?

The program is an effort to highlight the government's responsible spending, but I think it also serves as a good reminder for everyday checking account holders. As more consumers shift to online and mobile banking, it can be easy to lose track of where your money is going. While it's easy to log in and look at your recent expenses, it's a good idea to analyze each category of your spending on a regular basis to determine where you might be able to save more. Are you dining out too often? Can you reduce your cable bill? Where can you cut back to keep your balance higher?

What do you think of the program? Should more states open up their checkbooks for everyone to see? Does the program remind you of anything you should be doing to better monitor your own banking activity?

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1 Comment
SD
February 08, 2013 at 10:20 am

I would LOVE to see this for Illinois. I live in Chicago and am just *waiting* for the hammer to fall...maybe some transparency could bring more accountability.