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States scored in ease of tracking public funds

Thu., March 15, 2012

OLYMPIA – Washington got a B in transparency and Idaho got an F from a national group looking at how easy state governments make it for voters to “follow the money.”

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group graded the states on whether voters easily can track how money is spent, on what, and who gets it, reviewing websites set up to provide information about their agencies’ budgets.

Last year when the group made a similar survey, Washington also got an F. Since then, the state set up an advanced budget website that is searchable and user-friendly, although it doesn’t have as much historical information as some other states, the graders said. It is, however, taking the lead in “mapping” some forms of state spending, so average citizens can see where the money for state construction projects is spent.

Idaho, meanwhile, had the lowest score of any of the states reviewed. It was criticized for “weak or superficial information about government expenditures.”

Phineas Baxandall, senior analyst for tax and budget policy for the organization, said state governments across the country need to be more transparent about where money goes.

“Citizens expect information to be at their fingertips the way they can view their cellphone minutes or the location of a package,” he said. “Putting spending information online helps hold government accountable and allows taxpayers to see where the money goes.”

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