Lawmakers say they want more transparency when deciding how to spend taxpayer money. Do they mean it?

State Rep. Gene Pelowski hopes so. The Winona Democrat is leading a House special committee while the Legislature is out of session to explore ways to make lawmakers’ work more transparent to the public.

The set of hearings comes after a notably secretive and messy end to the last legislative session in May. Lawmakers needed overtime to complete their work and even then much of the final decision making about how to spend nearly $50 billion in taxpayer money over the next two years was done behind closed doors.

“There’s no easy fix for this,” Pelowski said Wednesday, July 10, at the opening of his committee’s first hearing this summer. “It took us a while to get here, it will take us a while to get out.”

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To start their discussion, lawmakers got an overview from staffers on the complexities of the state’s budgeting process. It includes a morass of procedures, hearings and deadlines that go into crafting a two-year spending plan for the state’s different agencies.

Patrick McCormack, director of House research, said lawmakers’ end goals are accuracy, efficiency, transparency and a budget that wins broad

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