Exporting transparency

Exporting transparency

Promoting transparency in government has long been at the core of NPRI’s efforts.

Not only do we citizens have a right to know how our government operates and how it spends our money, but that information is essential to making wise judgments in public policy.

That was our thinking behind launching TransparentNevada six years ago: Let the public see how government is spending money and how much public employees are making, and trust that once they knew the facts, citizens would demand better policies

Even though I was there when we launched the site, I never could have predicted how TransparentNevada would transform the debate on public-employee compensation in Nevada. From exposing overtime abuses in the Clark County fire department, to being a resource used by elected officials and media members across the state, to hearing union officials cite TransparentNevada as proof that school administrators are overpaid, TransparentNevada has changed the public’s perception of government-employee compensation.

Last year, TransparentNevada earned more than 1.98 million page views. That’s pretty amazing for a site with no paid advertising in a state of just 2.7 million residents.

This stunning success got us thinking about other states that could benefit from a similar website. And there’s no state more in need of increased public understanding of the problems of big government than our neighbor to the west.

I am pleased to let you know that today, NPRI — working with the California Public Policy Center, a California-based free-market think tank — has launched TransparentCalifornia.

TrasparentCalifornia.com enables users to search the compensation data of public employees in California just like they can on TransparentNevada — by name, job title and jurisdiction.

We already have more than 2.2 million salary records on the site, including information from cities, counties, public universities and the State of California. Additionally, the site makes public more than 1 million pension records, including records from CalPERS and CalSTRS.

Just like in Nevada, high salaries and pensions abound in California. Thanks to this new website, the public can now see that, in 2012, more than 1,000 former government workers took home more than $200,000 each in pension payouts. One, a retired public defender from Alameda County, collected a total pension payout of $527,255.

The site also brings extravagant salaries to light. There’s the lifeguard who made over $299,000 in L.A. County, the firefighter who took home over $428,000 in the town of Torrance, and the administrative secretary who received over $172,000 in Palm Desert

I don’t know if I should be encouraged or discouraged to see that inflated compensation for government employees isn’t limited just to Nevada.

Exposing runaway government spending in California is important, not just to Golden Staters, but to citizens all across the country — including those of us right here in Nevada. More than any other state, California has been a public-policy trend-setter, and so many policy ideas that have originated there have spread into Nevada and other states. Given the massive fiscal problems facing California today, it’s crucial that Californians understand the dangers posed by out-of-control government and stop spreading it across the country — and into Nevada.

But there’s something I want to make very clear to you. Much to the chagrin of public-sector unions here in Nevada, the launch of TransparentCalifornia doesn’t mean we’ll be any less committed to fostering greater transparency here in our state. Far from it.

In fact, even as you read this, our team is currently working to put Nevada PERS payments online at TransparentNevada, and we’ll be unveiling that information in the coming weeks.

I want to thank you for your continued investment in and support for NPRI. It’s not just paying dividends here in Nevada, but in our largest neighboring state as well. And if you have friends or family in California, send them to TransparentCalifornia.com. I promise they’ll be shocked at what they find out.

Sincerely,

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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