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Ranking the States on Online Disclosure of Govt Contracts, Subsidies and Lobbying

In the age of Google, citizens expect to be able to find core information on the Internet about government operations, but as a major new report being released today highlights, most states are failing on public transparency.

The report, The State of State Disclosure: An Evaluation of Online Public Information About Economic Development Subsidies, Procurement Contracts and Lobbying Activities, was prepared by Good Jobs First, which has been bird-dogging government giveaways of taxpayer money to corporations for years. The report surveyed state government websites and ranked them in three areas of transparency: government contracts, economic development subsidies, and lobbying disclosure. 

While a few states have good public disclosure policies -- although none are perfect -- the sad reality is that the majority of states rated an F for failure in Good Jobs First rankings. Some states had pretty graphics and little data, while many others had only partial information online. 

  • Who were the standout states with the highest overall rankings for online transparency?  Connecticut, Indiana, Nebraska, New York and Missouri.
  • And which were the bottom-of-the-barrel in failure of disclosure?  New Hampshire, South Carolina, Alabama, and (bringing up the rear) Wyoming.

In the report, Good Jobs First has links analyzing each state's disclosure practices here:
http://www.goodjobsfirst.org/news/article.cfm?id=338

While some states do a decent job on listing public contracts and lobbying activity, the biggest failure among almost all states is a lack of online information about which companies are getting economic subsidies from state governments. Even when states do disclose the existence of such deals, they often list only projected costs without listing projected benefits, making it impossible for taxpayers to even start to evaluate if they are worth the money handed out by economic development offices.

The good news is that states are increasingly enacting disclosure laws, the most recent example being New Jersey which just approved a new law to create company-specific reporting about individual deals and a "Unified Development Budget" to track total state spending on such subsidies.

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