Legislative Testimony: LB 851, Transparency Requirements for Quasi-Public State Entities
Chairman Murante and Members of the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, my name is Jessica Herrmann and I am the Director of Legislative Outreach for the Platte Institute for Economic Research. Thank you for this opportunity to speak in support of LB 851.
‘Transparency’ is government’s obligation to share information with citizens that is needed to make informed decisions and hold state and local elected officials accountable for their stewardship of the public’s tax dollars. The Platte Institute supports LB 851, which would broaden the scope of state entities that are required to submit basic financial information on the Nebraska state spending website.
Quasi-public agencies are a large and important part of state government operations. As many as 30 of these state entities exist in Nebraska with the power to collect fees, issue bonds, and manage public resources. These boards, commissions, committees, councils and other quasi-governmental bodies are typically governed by a board appointed substantially or entirely by the state.
The expenditures of quasi-public agencies often fall outside the regular budget process. This assures public investors that obligations for payment will not compete with general government functions. However, this separation causes these entities to suffer from an accountability deficit, as the absence of public records prevents taxpayers from monitoring cost overruns and project developments. Even policymakers are unable to determine how many of these entities currently exist in Nebraska.
In recent years, several states have begun requiring quasi-public agencies to submit basic financial information for transparency purposes. Connecticut, Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, and West Virginia have some form of reporting requirements for these state entities. More states are recognizing that revenue from quasi-public agencies are amounting to an increasing percentage of the state’s general budget. As a result, citizens must have the necessary tools to monitor the role these entities play in the increasingly complex state budget process.
While Nebraska’s spending website has improved in recent years, the expenditures of these quasi-public entities are still exempt from reporting requirements. Nebraskans need solid information on what they get for their tax dollars, and policymakers need to know every piece of the budgetary pie, including what is “off-budget,” in order to use tax dollars in the most effective way. LB 851 would accomplish both objectives, and we urge the Committee to advance this bill.
Thank you for your time today, and I am happy to answer any questions.
 “Other State Governmental Bodies,” Nebraska State Government, Nebraska Blue Book, 52nd edition. p. 716 – 738, http://nebraskalegislature.gov/pdf/bluebook/715-738.pdf