Where does the money for vehicle registration and title go? This was the question I asked the tag clerk Tuesday while scribbling a $600-plus check.
What did I get? A blank stare.
So I guessed … “Does it go toward road maintenance, bridge repair, etc.?” Other employees began to chime in. Some guessed it went to schools, some thought it paid hospital funding and others thought it went to the new jail.
The final consensus? My $600 check goes to the state. But no one could tell me what the state did with it.
I realize government is complicated. Policymaking is often compared to packaging sausage. It comes out good, but how it’s done and what’s inside, you don’t want to know.
As we enter a new era of transparency in America, shouldn’t we look to the most intimate contact people have with government? It’s one thing for the FDA to promote transparency, but shouldn’t taxpayers be afforded the same opportunities locally, particularly when their money goes to things they see and touch daily?
My idea for bite-sized government addresses this need. Why not have a workshop that instructs government employees how to answer such questions?
Even better, why not push transparency at the local level by putting signs in places like vehicle registration that depict where money goes. Realistically, policies change, and so do funding obligations. But giving even a general idea of what taxpayers contribute increases transparency.
Do you use such measures in your city? Do your government employees know what a $600 check would fund? I’m a Ph.D. student at Mississippi State University and am giving a glimpse into my research with the top ten reasons for bite-sized government each Thursday through Oct. 7.