New Pennsylvania website will list salaries and other spending of tax money
HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Corbett on Thursday started the PennWatch website to show Pennsylvanians how their tax dollars are being spent, saying it will usher in a new era of openness and accountability.
The website at www.pennwatch.pa.gov, in conjunction with the state’s Right to Know Law, “gives citizens greater access to their government records,” said Terry Mutchler, executive director of the Office of Open Records.
“That’s exactly what the General Assembly intended: greater accountability and transparency,” said Mutchler, an appointee of former Gov. Ed Rendell.
Corbett called the site a “historic leap forward in openness.”
“PennWatch presents information to citizens in a way that is both easy to use and easy to understand,” he said.
House Speaker Sam Smith, R-Punxsutawney, said the website is aimed at “rebuilding the faith and trust of Pennsylvania’s residents by showing how their money is spent.”
“I believe that transparency builds trust in government, and that citizens have the right to thoroughly review government actions,” said Senate Majority Leader Domenic Pileggi, R-Delaware County.
The project is based on legislation by Rep. Jim Christiana, R-Beaver County, and Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh County.
Stacey Witalec, a spokeswoman for Senate Democrats, said they backed the legislation as it moved through the General Assembly.
State Democrats claimed Corbett’s actions as governor belie a commitment to transparency.
“Gov. Tom Corbett promised an open and transparent administration, but his administration has gone to great lengths to hide its work and actions from the people of Pennsylvania,” spokesman Mark Nicastre said.
He highlighted Corbett’s refusal to provide documents on some Right to Know Law requests, such as one for a copy of the state Constitution, another for work email and phone numbers for administration employees, and a request for the governor’s work calender.
Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley said the legislation was bipartisan. The Corbett administration has been the most transparent of any in meeting Right to Know law requests, he said.
The website includes search and reporting tools enabling users to “drill down” into the data, which is updated monthly, officials said. Data will remain on the site for eight years.
“At this point I am underwhelmed but optimistic,” said Eric Epstein, founder of Rock the Capital, a watchdog group that supported the project.
Don’t look for historic comparisons immediately. The earliest data dates to July 1 of this year, said Corbett’s spokesman Kevin Harley.
“Most archives worth their salt have historical and institutional memory,” Epstein said.
Brad Bumsted is the state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media.He can be reached at 717-787-1405or [email protected].