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New Portal Lets The Sun Shine on State Government

By Tracy Dingmann

Thanks to a bipartisan effort at the New Mexico State Legislature, New Mexicans who want to know more about state budgets, financing, revenue, employee salaries, purchases, expenditures and revenue can now simply visit one website to find their answers.

The State of New Mexico Department of Information Technology launched a beta version of the state’s new Sunshine Portal, a searchable database that’s described as a “one stop shop” for those who want to keep a sharp eye on state government.

The site and database was developed here in New Mexico by Steve Schroeder of realtimesites, a local technology firm that has already designed several sites for state government, including the Summer Food Program for the Children, Youth and Families Department.

The new system cost the state about $180,000, but it will be worth it because state employees will no longer have to spend time responding to costly and extensive public records requests, said IT Department Secretary Marlin Mackey.

The attractive, easily-navigable site is designed to constantly input new data from state government without the need for much human interface, Mackey said.

In an interview Thursday, Schroeder said he is eager for consumer feedback on the system and will be taking it in through January and fine-tuning the site accordingly. On Jan 15, the state will present an updated site, just in time for the legislative session that begins on Jan. 20.

The idea for the Sunshine Portal began back in the 2010 legislative session, when Republican Sen. Sander Rue sponsored SB 195, which called for more public access to state spending and revenue. Lt. Gov Diane Denish was also a huge supporter of the Sunshine Portal idea, and she signed it into law on March 5, 2010.

The actual online Sunshine Portal site was slated to be ready by July 1 of 2011, but was finished early.

Sarah Welsh, director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, spoke at the unveiling of the site this week  and called it “pretty amazing.”

Here at Clearly New Mexico, we think the Sunshine Portal is pretty amazing, too. We look forward to poring over its wealth of information and learning more about how state government really works.

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