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New Coalition Demands Transparency in Federal and State Recovery Spending

With the federal government about to transfer hundreds of billions of dollars to the states, with many of those funds going to private contractors, a broad-based, bi-partisan coalition of organizations has come together in a Coalition for an Accountable Recovery.    The Coalition, which Progressive States Network participated in creating, is promoting reforms at both the federal and state level to assure transparency in how funds are used by federal and state contractors, the number of jobs created, and the quality of jobs created-- with the results posted online in easily searchable websites for the public.

Public Support High for Transparency: A poll released yesterday by the Coalition highlights the public support for transparency:
  • Three-quarters of voters (76%) believe that “creating a national website where citizens can see what companies and government agencies are getting the funds, for what purposes, and the number and quality of jobs being created or saved” would have an important impact on the package, including 39% who believe its impact would be extremely important. 
  • Fully 76% of American voters said creating state level websites to track funds was “important,” and 34% said it was “very important.” 
Unfortunately, the current federal recovery bill does not require that states to publicly track  the funds or create public websites to show how they are spending the money, despite the fact that state governments will be responsible for dispensing over half the funds.  

State Action on Disclosure:  State government do make some aspects of their spending and contracting decisions public, as detailed in this report by Good Jobs First.    But few states track job quality standards outside of public works construction projects and almost none comprehensively track their overall contracting programs, a point Progressive States Network highlighted in our report, Privatizing in the Dark: The Pitfalls of Privatization & Why Budget Disclosure is Needed.

States have begun taking increasing action to improve accountability, with partial contracting reforms enacted in a number of states.  A couple of especially strong bills are moving in legislatures this session, bills that should be models for states committed to establishing the transparency the public is demanding.  
  • In Massachusetts, Sen. Cynthia Creem and Reps. Antonio Cabral and Jay Kaufman are proposing a bill to create a searchable online database detailing the costs, recipients, and purposes for all appropriations, including contracts, grants, subcontracts, tax expenditures and other subsidies funded by the state government. 
  • And a coalition in Oregon are promoting potentially the most effective contracting accountability bill in the country, House Bill 2037, which would collect detailed information on the contract terms, location, hours worked and wages paid for all jobs created under each individual contract, along with aggregating the data for all statewide contracts by contractor and agency and making the data publicly available on the Internet. 
With the public demanding job creation results from the recovery package, enacting similar laws in every state to ensure transparency and accountability in state contracting should be a top priority this legislative session.  

Resources

Progressive States Network - Privatizing in the Dark: The Pitfalls of Privatization & Why Budget Disclosure is Needed
Progressive States Network - States Take Action to Reform Contracting Process  
Good Jobs First - The State of State Disclosure: An Evaluation of Public Information About Economic Development Subsidies, Procurement Contracts and Lobbying Activities
AFSCME - Stop Bad Contracts and Protect Public Jobs: Sample Legislative Language 
Oregon House Bill 2037 -- Relating to disclosures concerning public contracts.