Baltimore — A new analysis of official state websites focusing on the federal stimulus program finds that Maryland has the best reporting of all the states.
“The O’Malley administration has set high standards for the rest of the country when it comes to tracking how stimulus dollars get spent. No other state even comes close,” said Maryland PIRG State Director Johanna Neumann.
The finding comes from Show Us the Stimulus, a report published today by Good Jobs First, a non-profit research center based in Washington, DC and released in Maryland by the Maryland Public Interest Research Group (Maryland PIRG). The full text of the report and an online state-specific appendix can be found at www.marylandpirg.org.
“Many states are failing to support President Obama’s vow that the Recovery Act would be carried out with an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability, said Good Jobs First executive director Greg LeRoy, “and they are making it more difficult to measure the success of ARRA in mitigating the effects of the recession.”
Only six states score 50 or better for their main ARRA site: Maryland (80), Colorado (68), Washington (63), West Virginia (60), New York (53) and Pennsylvania (50). Thirteen states score 50 or better for their highway reporting, led by Maryland (75), Washington (73) and Nebraska (60). The average score for the ARRA websites is 28, and for highway reporting 38.
The study examined the quality and quantity of disclosure by state websites on the many ways ARRA funding is flowing through state governments to communities, organizations and individuals. Looking at both spending programs and individual projects, it evaluates the general ARRA websites that all states have created as well as the reporting specifically on highway projects. Based on ten different criteria, each state (and the District of Columbia) is graded on a scale of 0 to 100.
While the report gave Maryland the highest score among all states, room for improvement still exists. The state lost points, for instance, by not reporting the duration or status of ongoing projects or posting the text of its contracts. Likewise, the website does not distinguish which road projects are for repair as opposed to building new and wider highways.
Governor O’Malley became known as a national leader in tracking public performance data as Mayor of Baltimore, where he created a CitiStat program that was imitated by scores of other cities and counties around the country. As Governor, he has begun introducing similar programs, especially to track performance of transit agencies and parole departments. Many key staff who worked on CitiStat in Baltimore continue to work alongside the Governor.
“We tried to be as generous as possible, but most state ARRA sites simply do not measure up,” said Philip Mattera, research director of Good Jobs First and principal author of the report. “The challenge is not insurmountable,” he added. “States such as Maryland are doing a very good job in conveying vital information about stimulus spending and are leading the way in establishing best practices for state ARRA disclosure.”
Good Jobs First co-chairs the Coalition for An Accountable Recovery, which works on transparency and accountability at the federal level with U.S. PIRG and other groups, and coordinates States for a Transparent and Accountable Recovery, or STAR Coalition, which works with state-level organizations, including Maryland PIRG.