Government transparency and public pensions are hot buttons not only in Kentucky but in most states around the nation. The Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research in Massachusetts is on a mission to prove that combining those issues and making the state’s public pension system more transparent is easier than politicians in that state would like to admit.
A recent policy brief by the Pioneer Institute serves as an overview for MassPensions.com, a site developed by the organization to aggregate state pension information and make it easily accessible to taxpayers. (note: The Bluegrass Institute did something very similar to this regarding education data on Freedomkentucky.org.)
I think the Pioneer Institute sums up public pension transparency well:
Effective data management and information sharing with the public should be core priorities and competencies of the effective government of the future. Unfortunately, they do not seem to be so important for the governments of the present. For some, this reality is a product of policymakers’ being less than enthusiastic about exposing their dealings to public scrutiny; but most certainly it is also the result of an irrational fear of technology and an unfounded belief that effective IT is complicated and inaccessible to ordinary mortals.
MassPensions demonstrates that a more open and “data-conscious” government is not only possible but also largely at our fingertips. Disclosure is not just about keeping tabs on public servants and measuring policy performance. Facing the need to organize and disclose information on a regular basis, institutions (both public and private) benefit from an inherent pressure to understand their data better, which in turn allows them to implement operational improvements more often and more effectively.
I would like to see this replicated in Kentucky by state government. From there, we can force even more information to be made public and accessible via this database. Kentucky’s public pension system is in crisis with a $34 billion unfunded liability. Transparency is the first step toward accountability and solving this mess we are in.