Following the Money: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data

Source: Phineas Baxandall, Kari Wohlschlegel, U.S. PIRG Education Fund, April 2010

From the summary:
The ability to see how government uses the public purse is fundamental to democracy. Spending transparency checks corruption, bolsters public confidence in government, and promotes fiscal responsibility.

In the private sector, Internet search technology has revolutionized the accessibility and transparency of information. We take for granted the ability to track deliveries online, to check cell phone minutes and compare real estate on the Web, and even to summon – at the click of a mouse – satellite and street-level views of any address. But until recently, when it came to tracking government expenditures online, we were left in the dark.

State governments across the country are changing that. At least 32 states currently mandate that residents be able to access an online database of government expenditures with “checkbook-level” detail. Most of these Web sites are also searchable, making it easier for residents to obtain information about government spending.

This report evaluates states’ progress toward “Transparency 2.0” – a new standard of comprehensive, one-stop, one-click budget accountability and accessibility. At least 7 states have become leaders in the drive toward Transparency 2.0, launching easy-to-use, searchable Web sites with a wide range of spending transparency information. Twenty-five additional states have made initial steps toward online spending transparency by launching Web sites with checkbook-level detail on state spending that nonetheless have much room for improvement.

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