Wisconsin got a “F” when it comes to openness about government spending, according to Following the Money: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data, a new report by the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPIRG).
“The good news is that state governments have become far more transparent about where the money goes,” said Johanna Lathrop, WISPIRG Staff Attorney, “But Wisconsin still has a long way to go.”
Following the Money found that 32 states provide an online database of government expenditures with “checkbook-level” detail. The best state transparency tools are highly searchable, and include detailed information about government contracts, tax subsidies and special grants to businesses.
An example of a leading state transparency web tool is Open Door Kentucky which allows visitors to easily search view contracts past and present, to search by contractor or type of activity contracted for, with explanations of the purpose of individual contracts. Tax subsidies and economic development grants are included, as are expenditures by some quasi-public agencies. Similarly, the state of Illinois’ Corporate Accountability Project tracks grants given to companies for job creation – and provides yearly reports signed by the companies of how many jobs were actually created.
States with top-flight transparency websites are saving money, restoring public confidence in government, and preventing misspending and pay-to-play contracts. States that have created online transparency have done so with little upfront cost.
“Wisconsinites deserve to know how and who is spending their tax dollars. By opening up Wisconsin’s checkbook, we can all collaboratively work to make government more efficient and accountable,” said State Representative Bill Kramer.
The leading states with the most open spending are: Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota, Texas, Missouri and Pennsylvania. Wisconsin received an “F” grade because it lacks a website with checkbook-level detail.