Political Notebook

Screenshot from http://indiana.gov/

Indiana gets a C+ for government spending transparency

Indiana received a "C+" when it comes to government spending transparency, according to a new report ranking states on online access to spending data.

"Following the Money 2013" is the fourth annual report of its kind by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund.

"State governments across the country have become more transparent about where public money goes, providing citizens with the information they need to hold elected officials and businesses that receive public funds accountable," said Alec Sprague, Federal Field Organizer with INPIRG. "But Indiana still has a long way to go."

Officials from Indiana and 47 other states provided the researchers with feedback on their initial evaluation of state transparency websites. The leading states with the most comprehensive transparency websites are Texas, Massachusetts, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Oklahoma.

Indiana's website contains checkbook-level information on contracts, non-contract spending, and grants, but lacks such information on economic development tax credits. It also does not provide any details on spending by off-budget agencies and lacks adequate information to hold companies accountable for economic development subsidies.

The state's grade fell from an "A-" last year to this year's "C+." The fall reflected rising grading standards which the state of Indiana failed to keep up with. For instance, this year's higher standards call for searchable checkbook-level information on economic development tax credits, which Indiana's website has yet to provide. In order for states to keep up with rising standards and maintain high scores, they must continually improve transparency.

"Let's be clear," said Sprague, "Indiana's falling score does not mean spending has become less transparent. It means most states are improving faster."

To contact Niki Kelly email her at nkelly@jg.net or follow her on Twitter @nkellyatJG.