[OpenSpending] Fwd: [open-government] Transparency Report Card Grades 50 States on Spending Openness

Jonathan Gray jonathan.gray at okfn.org
Thu Apr 11 11:43:14 UTC 2013


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Ryan Pierannunzi <media at pirg.org>
Date: 26 March 2013 15:48
Subject: [open-government] Transparency Report Card Grades 50 States on
Spending Openness
To: open-government at lists.okfn.org

March 26, 2013

Phineas Baxandall, Senior Analyst for Tax & Budget Policy, U.S. PIRG
Education Fund
(617) 747-4351, phineas at pirg.org
Ryan Pierannunzi, Tax and Budget Associate, U.S. PIRG Education Fund
(617) 747-4315, rpierannunzi at pirg.org

*Transparency Report Card Grades 50 States on Spending Openness*

March 26 – U.S. PIRG Education Fund released its fourth annual study today,
titled “Following the Money
evaluating each of the 50 states on their spending transparency with an “A”
to “F” grade.

“State governments across the country have become more transparent about
where public money goes, providing citizens with the information they need
to hold elected officials and businesses that receive public funds
accountable,” said Phineas Baxandall, senior analyst for tax and budget
policy with the U.S. PIRG Education Fund. “But standards for transparency
are continually rising, so there is always room for improvement.”

Among the report’s findings:

•    For the first time ever, all 50 states now provide some
“checkbook-level” government expenditure information online, a major
increase from three years ago when only 32 states detailed information on
specific payments made to individual vendors.
•    Thirty-nine state transparency websites now include reports about
government spending through tax-code deductions, exemptions and credits –
up from just eight states that did so three years ago.
•    In the past year, a number of states created new transparency
websites, including Arkansas, Connecticut, Idaho, Maine, Montana,
Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
•    Seven states earned “A” grades: Texas, Massachusetts, Florida,
Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, and Oklahoma. These “leading” states provide
detailed information on different types of payments, usually in searchable
and easy-to-use databases.
•    Five states earned “F” grades: Wyoming, Wisconsin, Hawaii, California,
and North Dakota. These “failing” states provide some checkbook-level
information, but their websites are limited in scope, lack
comprehensiveness, and are difficult to navigate.
•    Spending transparency follows no partisan pattern. On a 100-point
scale, the average score of states with Democratic governors differed by
less than half a point from states with Republican governors.

Since last year’s “Following the Money” report, there has been remarkable
progress across the country, with new states providing online access to
government spending information and several states pioneering new tools to
further expand citizens’ access to this data. Officials from 48 states
provided the researchers with feedback on their initial evaluation of state
transparency websites.

“Open information about the public purse is crucial for democratic and
effective government,” said Baxandall. “It is not possible to ensure that
government spending decisions are fair and efficient unless information is
publicly accessible.”

The states with the most transparent spending are comprehensive about the
kinds of spending they include, disclosing data on economic development
subsidies, grants, expenditures through the tax code, and quasi-public
agencies—recognizing that these items affect budget trade-offs just as
traditional spending does. But the best states have transparency tools that
are highly searchable, include detailed usable information, and engage
citizens—allowing all the information to be put to good use.

States that have created or improved their online transparency have
typically done so with little upfront cost. Moreover, the report shows that
top-flight transparency websites can save money for taxpayers, while
restoring public confidence in government and preventing misspending and
pay-to-play contracts.

“We’ve been encouraging states to advance spending transparency with our
report cards since 2010. The progress that we’ve witnessed each year is
very encouraging, and states should continue to prioritize transparency
going forward,” said Baxandall. “As many states grapple with long-term
budget shortfalls, it is more important than ever for citizens to be able
to follow the money.”

To read the report, click

# # #

*U.S. PIRG Education Fund* <http://www.uspirgedfund.org>* works to protect
consumers and promote good government. We investigate problems, craft
solutions, educate the public, and offer meaningful opportunities for civic

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Jonathan Gray <http://jonathangray.org/> | @jwyg <http://twitter.com/jwyg>
Director of Policy and Ideas
The Open Knowledge Foundation <http://okfn.org/> |
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