Illinois Transparency and Accountability Portal headed to Quinn; backers already looking to expand program

Adriana Colindres

Now that lawmakers have agreed to create an online database of state employees' salaries, vendor payments and other government information, the proposal's main backers are talking about expanding the idea.

Legislation to set up the Illinois Transparency and Accountability Portal won the Illinois Senate's approval last week. House Bill 35 earlier passed in the House of Representatives, so it now is headed to Gov. Pat Quinn. His signature is needed for the bill to become law.

Quinn spokeswoman Libby White said the governor supports the Accountability Portal and that House Bill 35 is under review.

Rep. Michael Tryon, a Crystal Lake Republican who sponsored the bill in the House, said he expects Quinn to sign it.

The next step, Tryon said, will be to expand the database by adding information about state boards and commissions. Taxpayers deserve to know who's serving on those panels and whether they're politically connected, he said, noting allegations that former Gov. Rod Blagojevich traded campaign contributions for certain appointments.

Posting the information online also could save money by disbanding or consolidating some of the boards and commissions, Tryon said.

In addition, Tryon wants the Accountability Portal to eventually provide "real-time" budgeting information that describes state government's financial situation throughout the year.

If Quinn signs HB35 into law, the Accountability Portal should be operational in less than a year, he said.

The Illinois Department of Central Management Services has estimated the startup costs will be $600,000, but Tryon said the state would recover that money because vendors will use the database to submit more competitive, lower bids. Also, state government won't have to process as many Freedom of Information Act requests because the requested data will be available online, he said.

Much of the information that would be offered on the Accountability Portal already is available, but supporters of the proposal say it isn't easily accessible to the public.

Adriana Colindres can be reached at 217-782-6292 or adriana.colindres@sj-r.com.