Senator’s Bill Requiring Posting of Program Costs Might Itself Be Costly

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., has introduced the bill every Congress since 2011. Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., has introduced the bill every Congress since 2011. J Pat Carter / AP

A bill to expand the information on agency programs mandated to appear on the White House budget office website would cost as much as $18 million to implement in 2018-2020, the Congressional Budget Office reported on Thursday.

The “Taxpayers Right to Know Act” (S. 317), introduced every Congress since 2011 by Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., cleared the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee this March 15. It would increase the amount of information on each agency program posted publicly by the Office of Management and Budget and require a new Government Accountability Office report on program performance.

This is a “commonsense bill that pushes the federal government to be more transparent and provides the tools the American people need to access detailed information about federal programs that spend more than $1 million,” Lankford said last month. It would create an online database that reports financial data and performance metrics for every federal program and require every federal agency to provide an annual report card for all of its programs while identifying the number of employees and beneficiaries served by each federal program.

"The long-term savings created by the added oversight and transparency outweighs the short term expense,” said Lankford in a statement to Government Executive Friday.

Past efforts to inventory federal programs have run into barriers of differing definitions.

A House version of the Taxpayers Right to Know Act, sponsored by Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., passed that chamber in January.

CBO said the costs of the bill would drop to zero during the out-years. 

The measure appears to have bipartisan support, despite having failed in the Senate last year.

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