Legislative / Regulatory

Can XBRL save Maryland’s budget?

Statehouse OK everyone, put your thinking caps on.

In light of a projected $700 million shortfall in this year's budget and an estimated $1 billion deficit next year, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley is looking everywhere for ideas on how to save money and cut costs. Now he wants to know what you think.

"We encourage all citizens to join in," O'Malley told The Baltimore Sun in launching a new online suggestion box. "Tradition is not a good enough excuse for continuing to do something in a suboptimal way."

Here's our chance, folks: Let's tell the governor exactly what we think. Leave us a comment with your best idea for how Maryland can rescue its budget. It seems like a state full of CPAs can come up with at least a few fiscally responsible ideas. Let's hear them.

In the meantime, here's mine: Give XBRL a try.

XBRL, of course, is short for eXtensible Business Reporting Language. It's a tagging language that helps companies electronically communicate their business and financial data to investors and other users of financial statements.

But it's much more than that. Supporters say XBRL has moved beyond financial reporting and is proving its mettle as a solution for reducing costs and increasing competitiveness.

And now governments are getting in on the act. Nevada Comptroller Kim Wallin told me that her state could save up to $600,000 in staffing costs and bring in an additional $5 million over two years by using XBRL in its debt collection process. Wallin is hoping to apply XBRL to other state operations as well.

So if Nevada can do it, why can't Maryland?

Sure, XBRL won't solve all of our budgetary woes. But if it could save one worthy program from being cut or stop lawmakers from enacting one bad tax, wouldn't it be worth it?

Give it some thought, Gov. O'Malley. Give it some serious thought. XBRL is helping at least one state cut costs and raise additional revenue.

Let's figure out what it can do for Maryland.


Bill Sheridan