Politics & Government

Kentucky legislature's expenses posted online

FRANKFORT — Kentucky paid Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, a salary of $46,164 last year, plus $43,241 for expenses, travel and stationery. House Speaker Greg Stumbo, R-Prestonsburg, got a salary of $50,382, plus $47,490 for expenses, travel and stationery.

Those bits of financial information and much more are available now on the Legislative Research Commission's Web site — www.lrc.ky.gov — under a tab titled "Legislative Branch Expenditures."

Now that the legislative branch is posting its expenditures, spending data are available online for every branch of state government.

Bobby Sherman, director of the LRC, said the state legislature has been considering for several years various pieces of legislation dealing with online posting of legislative branch expenditures.

He said Williams and Stumbo directed LRC staff in August to establish a Web site to allow public access to legislative expenditures, personal service contracts and salaries. All legislative leaders approved the online posting plan Oct. 6.

"Our staff has been working diligently for a long time to accomplish this, and we believe it is a service to let taxpayers know how their tax dollars are being spent," Sherman said.

Sherman said a letter Gov. Steve Beshear sent to him last week regarding the legislature's spending data did not spur the legislative branch to post its expenditures.

"It has been well under way even before the letter from the governor," he said.

Beshear noted in his Jan. 6 letter that his administration created an online portal, www.opendoor.ky.gov, two years ago that features a database of expenditures, contracts, salaries and various state financial documents for the executive branch.

In January 2010, the judicial branch of state government joined Open Door, Beshear said.

The Democratic governor noted that he supported legislation in the 2010 General Assembly that would require online disclosure of financial information by all branches of state government, but it did not pass. Beshear invited the legislative branch to join Open Door.

Sherman informed Beshear in a Jan. 10 letter that legislative leaders had already directed him to establish a Web site allowing public access to legislative branch expenditure records.

He added that the legislative posting was designed and constructed by existing LRC staff without outside consultants, which were used to establish Open Door.

In this year's legislative session, bills again have been filed to make sure online posting of financial information by all three branches of government continues. Similar bills were filed in last year's legislative session, but they stalled in the House.

"All three branches of government now post online, but that could change someday if we do not put this into law," said Senate State and Local Government Chairman Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown.

The legislative Web site offers information on the legislative branch budget, its expenditures, personal service contracts, employee salaries and legislators' salaries and expenses.

For individual lawmakers, the site gives a total for travel expenses in a specific year, but it does not offer details about specific expenditures. The Open Door site for executive and judicial employees also shows totals for in-state and out-of-state travel expenses, but it does not provide further detail.

Spokesmen for all three branches of government said they seek suggestions from the public on how to make their Web sites more user-friendly.