Wisconsin Earns “D+” in Annual Report on Transparency of Government Spending

Media Contacts

WISPIRG Foundation

Madison, March 16 – Wisconsin got a “D+” when it comes to openness about government spending, according to Following the Money 2011: How the States Rank on Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data, the second annual report of its kind by the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPIRG).  Included with the report is an interactive online tool that allows users to view what Wisconsin is doing best and worst compared to other states’ transparency practices.

“The good news is that since last year’s Following the Money report, state governments across the country have become far more transparent about where the money goes,” said Bruce Speight, Director at WISPIRG, “But Wisconsin still has a long way to go.”

The leading states with the most open spending are: Kentucky, Texas, Indiana, Arizona, Louisiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ohio, and Oregon.  Since last year’s report, Wisconsin has launched a transparency website that has put Wisconsin on the map in government transparency. But there still remain serious deficiencies in the website which is keeping Wisconsin from being a leader. 

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.  This year’s report found that 40 states now provide an online database of government expenditures with “checkbook-level” detail. The states with the most transparent spending also include data on economic development subsidies, expenditures granted through the tax code, and quasi-public agencies.  Six states, including Wisconsin, have launched transparency websites since last year’s report and many more have made improvements to existing websites.  The best state transparency tools were highly searchable, engaged citizens, and included detailed information about government contracts, tax expenditures, tax subsidies and economic development incentives.

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.

“Having one of the best transparency websites in the nation is important because it would shine a light on Wisconsin’s government spending,” said Speight. “Given the current severity of our budget problems, Wisconsinites need to be able to follow the money.”