MHPC Urges Sens. Snowe, Collins to Join Movement for Transparent Deficit Committee Meetings

Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins - AP photo

AP photo|

The Maine Heritage Policy Center (MHPC) is urging Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to join a growing movement within the U.S. Senate to open up to the public all meetings and hearings held by the congressional deficit-reduction committee created by the Budget Control Act of 2011 signed by the president on Tuesday.

Earlier this week, several U.S. Senators sent a letter to Senate leaders of both parties calling on them to ensure the committee’s meetings have advance public notice, be broadcast on live TV, and be open to members of the public. Legislation requiring these transparency measures has also been introduced.

In a letter sent to both Maine Senators, MHPC’s newly-named chief executive officer Lance Dutson urged them to support the movement to have the committee’s meetings be open and transparent.

“The deficit-reduction committee is tasked with identifying $1.2 trillion in federal spending cuts by November. Some members of Congress are also calling for the committee to pursue tax increases. Raising taxes during this time of recession would be devastating. The results of the committee’s work could have a tremendous impact on taxpayers in Maine and across the nation. As such, our ability to know what takes place during these committee meetings should be guaranteed,” Dutson wrote.

Open government has been a signature issue for MHPC, and its efforts in the policy area have included the online transparency Web site MaineOpenGov.org, that lists state payroll and expenditures data, and its drafting and promotion of legislation to strengthen Maine’s Freedom of Access law. In assuming the role of CEO, Dutson has prioritized expanding the Center’s efforts to increase government transparency and accountability even further.

“Every citizen and taxpayer, in Maine and across the nation, has a right to know the actions of their government officials and how those officials are spending their hard-earned tax dollars,” Dutson said. “So much is riding on the results of this deficit-reduction committee’s work. We are urging Senators Snowe and Collins to help shine a light on its deliberations and ensure our right to know is guaranteed. This issue is too important to ignore.”

Scroll down to read a copy of the letter sent by MHPC CEO Lance Dutson to Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. Click here to view actual letter.

_______________________________________________________________________

August 5, 2011

The Honorable Olympia Snowe
United States Senate
154 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Susan Collins
United States Senate
413 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senators Snowe and Collins:

The Maine Heritage Policy Center believes an open and transparent government is critical in a free and democratic society. Citizens have a right to know the actions of their government officials and how those officials are using our hard-earned tax dollars.

As an organization, we commit substantial resources to expand government transparency and protect citizens’ right to access public information. We created and maintain the MaineOpenGov.org Web site, which features salary information for some 90,000 taxpayer-paid Maine government employees, billions of dollars in state government contracts, and pension payment data for Maine government retirees. We have also partnered with other transparency advocates including the Maine Civil Liberties Union to promote legislation to strengthen Maine’s Freedom of Access laws.

Because of our steadfast commitment to expand government transparency, we were encouraged to learn of an effort by some of your Senate colleagues to make a newly-created congressional deficit-reduction committee open and accountable. In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, your colleagues have called for the committee’s meetings and hearings to have advance public notice, allow live television broadcasting, and be open to the public. Additionally, the Budget Control Joint Committee Transparency Act that has been proposed would amend the Budget Control Act of 2011 to require this critical transparency.

The deficit-reduction committee is tasked with identifying $1.2 trillion in federal spending cuts by November. Some members of Congress are also calling for the committee to pursue tax increases. Raising taxes during this time of recession would be devastating. The results of the committee’s work could have a tremendous impact on taxpayers in Maine and across the nation. As such, our ability to know what takes place during these committee meetings should be guaranteed.

I write to urge you both to join this movement to open these meetings to the public. Government transparency is too important an issue to ignore. Your influence in the Senate is vital to protecting and expanding our right to know.

Thank you for your consideration of this critically important issue, and for your service to the people of Maine.

Sincerely,

Lance Dutson

Chief Executive Officer

 

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For questions, or to schedule an interview, please contact Communications Director Chris Cinquemani at chris@mainepolicy.org