Colorado Receives a “C-” in Annual Report on Transparency of Government Spending

Media Contacts

CoPIRG Foundation

Denver, March 14 – Colorado received a “C-” when it comes to government spending transparency, according to Following the Money 2012: How the States Rank on Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data, the third annual report of its kind by the Colorado Public Interest Research Group (CoPIRG). 

“State governments across the country continue to be more transparent about where the money goes, extending checkbook-level disclosure of data on spending to contracting, tax subsidies, development incentives and other expenditures,” said Danny Katz, Director of CoPIRG. “But Colorado still has a long way to go.”

Officials from Colorado and 46 other states provided the researchers with feedback on their initial evaluation of state transparency websites. The leading states with the most comprehensive transparency websites are Texas, Kentucky, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, West Virginia, and Arizona. 

Based on an inventory of the content and accessibility of states’ transparency websites, Following the Money 2012 assigns each state a grade of “A” to “F.” The report describes Colorado as an “emerging state,” but still not a leader due to serious deficiencies.  The website does not contain state contracts, tax expenditure data, fully comprehensive grant information and historical data. Colorado did not keep pace with advancing transparency standards and saw its grade slip from a “C” to a “C-” in this year’s report.

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 government spending information.  Unfortunately, Colorado is not one of those states.

This year’s report found that, like Colorado, 45 other states now provide an online database of government expenditures with “checkbook-level” detail, a major increase from 32 states two years ago. Twenty nine state transparency websites have moved ahead of Colorado and now provide information on government expenditures through tax code deductions, exemptions and credits – up from eight states two years ago.

Said Katz, “Citizens expect information to be at their fingertips the way they can view their cellphone minutes or the location of a package. Putting spending information online helps hold government accountable and allows taxpayers to see where the money goes.”

The states with the most transparent spending generally include data on economic development subsidies, expenditures granted through the tax code, and quasi-public agencies. The best state transparency tools were highly searchable, engaged citizens, and included detailed usable information.

States that have created or improved their online transparency have typically done so with little upfront cost.   In fact, states with top-flight transparency websites actually save money for taxpayers, while also restoring public confidence in government, and preventing misspending and pay-to-play contracts.

“The state of Colorado should continually improve access to online information about government spending,” said Katz. “Given our state budget problems, Coloradans need to be able to follow the money.”