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Following the Money 2016
Connecticut received an A+ when it comes to government spending transparency, according to “Following the Money 2016: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data,” the seventh annual report of its kind by Connecticut Public Interest Research Group Education Fund. Connecticut’s near-perfect score makes it a leader in state spending transparency nationally.
This year’s report recognized more states as leaders than ever before with all but two states providing checkbook-level data for one or more economic development subsidy programs and more than half of states making that subsidy data available for researchers to download and analyze. Several states achieved perfect or near perfect scores based on this year’s criteria.
“Connecticut's improvements make its transparency site not only comprehensive but also highly usable,” said Evan Preston, ConnPIRG Director. “By introducing intuitive graphs and easily navigable data sets, the state is giving citizens far more than just a data dump—they are helping citizens understand and analyze just how their tax dollars are spent.”
Comptroller Kevin Lembo said, “This A+ is great news – and comes at an important time as Connecticut navigates new fiscal challenges and prickly public policy debates. Facts and truth – not shadowy special interests – should be driving our discussions here at the capitol. The only way to ensure an honest discussion about our financial future is to open government and deliver the truth to the public. We are doing everything we can to deliver state financial information in bigger and better ways each year. With a few key strikes, all of us can find out where state money is going and where it came from. Most recently we have been working to extend that transparency to our quasi-public agencies, as well as towns and cities across the state. We are grateful that ConnPIRG recognized our efforts – and promise that we will treat this grade as a starting point, not a finish line, in making Connecticut the most open and accountable state in the country.”
Officials from Connecticut and 43 other states provided the researchers with feedback on their initial evaluation of state transparency websites.
Based on an inventory of the content and ease-of-use of states' transparency websites, the “Following the Money 2016” report assigns each state a grade of “A” to “F.” The leading states with the most comprehensive transparency websites are Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Oregon, and Connecticut.
Connecticut’s most significant improvements include the addition of a page that details what data is excluded from the site, allowing citizens to better understand the universe of information the state is providing. The state also added more information about the projected and actual public benefits of some of its largest subsidy programs. The state could continue to improve its transparency efforts by expanding its site to include spending information from municipalities and more local government bodies.
“States’ online spending transparency efforts are paying off in better informed citizens and a more efficient government,” said Elizabeth Ridlington, policy analyst with Frontier Group and co-author of the report. “Our research found that top-ranked states have been making steady improvements to their transparency websites over the years, giving citizens in most states unprecedented access to information on where their tax money goes.”
States that have created or improved their online transparency have typically done so with little upfront cost. In fact, top-flight transparency websites can save money for taxpayers, while also restoring public confidence in government and preventing misspending and pay-to-play contracts. Connecticut officials reported that their transparency portal cost Existing budget to create and $18,000 to maintain annually.
Connecticut’s transparency website is operated by the Office of the State Comptroller. To visit it, click here: www.osc.ct.gov/openCT/.
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