A new report on government transparency by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, which conducts research and public education on behalf of consumers and the public interest, gives Kentucky’s open budget website top honors. The report evaluated each of the 50 states on their spending transparency with an “A” to “F” grade. For the first time ever, all 50 states now provide some “checkbook-level” government expenditure information online, a major increase from three years ago when only 32 states detailed information on specific payments made to individual vendors.
Kentucky received an A- for its transparency website, www.opendoor.ky.gov, which allows citizens to review state government spending. Kentucky is considered one of seven top states in transparency, according to the report. Governor Beshear said OpenDoor is a bipartisan, multi-agency effort led by his administration to provide a more transparent, accountable state government and to allow viewers the opportunity to find out how tax dollars are being spent to improve Kentucky.
The Commonwealth received 92 out of 100 points possible. The other states in the “A” Category include Texas, Massachusetts, Florida, Illinois, Michigan and Oklahoma. The report evaluated such items as contracts, expenditures, grants, tax credits and off-budget agencies of each state.
Five states earned “F” grades: Wyoming, Wisconsin, Hawaii, California, and North Dakota. These “failing” states provide some checkbook-level information, but their websites are limited in scope, lack comprehensiveness, and are difficult to navigate.
According to report authors, the states with the most transparent spending are comprehensive about the kinds of spending they include, disclosing data on economic development subsidies, grants, expenditures through the tax code, and quasi-public agencies—recognizing that these items affect budget trade-offs just as traditional spending does. But the best states have transparency tools that are highly searchable, include detailed usable information, and engage citizens—allowing all the information to be put to good use.
States that have created or improved their online transparency have typically done so with little upfront cost. Moreover, the report shows that top-flight transparency websites can save money for taxpayers, while restoring public confidence in government and preventing misspending and pay-to-play contracts.
“I’m proud that Kentucky remains a national model for online transparency, and we’re excited by the possibilities to improve our site by including more grant, tax and educational information,” said Lori H. Flanery, secretary of the Finance and Administration Cabinet. “Just this year, we’ve included a citizen tax calculator and improved our open data resources to ensure that Kentucky remains strong.”