Interactive budget follows the money

Florida has simplified and improved the functionality of its online budget to create what state officials claim is the most interactive document of its kind in the nation.

Last year, Gov. Jeb Bush unveiled a Web-based, fully searchable "e-budget" to make Florida's budget process more accessible and accountable to citizens. Many states place static budget documents on their Web sites in Adobe Acrobat format.

Bush released his $43.2 billion budget for 2001-02 on Jan. 17.

Florida's e-Budget Web site (www.myflorida.com/ebudget) enables citizens to see what programs and services the government performs. They can view the cost of the programs, the projected cost in next year's budget and performance standards agencies are expected to meet, said Courtney Griffith, a spokeswoman for the State Technology Office.

"Making all of state government, especially the way we spend taxpayers' money, easy to understand is a critical step in creating a digital democracy," Florida chief information officer Roy Cales said in a statement.

The new site uses a narrative format to summarize the budget process, Bush's policies, budget highlights and performance goals. Viewers can visit a section of frequently asked questions to learn more about individual programs.

Budget information can be accessed several ways. There are tools that enable users to generate reports and issue queries for specific categories of information. Information also is presented by policy area, agency and specific program. Citizens can determine total spending on social services, for example, because funding that is spread across many agencies is linked in the e-budget.

The governor's office will respond to e-mail sent through the site and use the feedback when developing next year's budget and the Web site, Griffith said.

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