July 31, 2014

New Report: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data,

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The following report was published last week by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund (U.S. Public Interest Research Group).

From the Report Announcement

Government spending transparency is improving, but at an uneven pace among the 50 states, according to “Following the Money 2014: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data,” the fifth annual report of its kind by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund.

“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 recipients of public subsidies accountable,” said Phineas Baxandall, Senior Analyst with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund.

Officials from 45 states provided the researchers with feedback on their initial evaluation of state transparency websites. The leading states with the most comprehensive transparency websites are Indiana, Florida, Oregon, Florida, Texas, Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

[States receiving a failing grade are Alaska, California, and Idaho.]

Based on an inventory of the content and ease-of-use of states’ transparency websites, the “Following the Money 2014” report assigns each state a grade of “A” to “F.” Grading standards rise each year, so states need to improve transparency each year to be a leader.

While many states continue to improve, the states that most distinguished themselves as leaders in spending transparency are those that provide access to types of expenditures that otherwise receive little public scrutiny. For instance, six states provide public access to checkbook-level data on the subsidy recipients for each of the state’s most important economic development programs, allowing citizens and public officials to hold subsidy recipients accountable by listing the public benefits that specific companies were expected to provide and showing the benefits they actually delivered. The most transparent states similarly provide detailed information on subsidies spent through the tax code and “off-budget” quasi-public agencies.

Direct to Full Text Report (62 pages; PDF)

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Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.