Frontier Group’s Following the Money reports have set the standard for state transparency websites. Following the Money, written with U.S. PIRG Education Fund, grades states’ transparency websites based on the government spending data they provide to their citizens. For a state to earn a passing grade, its website must be comprehensive, one-stop, and one-click.
This past month, West Virginia launched a new website, TransparencyWV, along the Following the Money guidelines. According to the Charleston Gazette, “the [state] auditor’s staff said they modeled the site after those of states that earned A’s in the U.S. PIRG report, such as Texas.” Now, citizens, watchdog groups, and companies can browse the payments West Virginia has given to vendors, read up on the effectiveness of tax breaks in creating jobs, and track West Virginia’s economic recovery. The site isn’t quite perfect – it seems to be lacking information on which companies receive certain grants and tax breaks – but it is a major leap forward.
In recent years, state after state has tweaked, supplemented, or completely revamped their website to make it adhere to guidelines in Following the Money. With a whole new website, TransparencyWV makes it the biggest “improvement” yet. Compare with Maryland’s improvements:
After (now includes info on tax expenditures, state contracts, and recovery spending):
Or Michigan’s improvements:
After (now includes info on tax expenditures):
West Virginia’s improvements are quite noticeable to say the least:
Congratulations West Virginia!
In addition to being a tremendous improvement from, well, the nothing they had before, what’s great about TransparencyWV is that it has launched West Virginia to a leader in the Transparency 2.0 movement. Few other states provide the wealth of information in such an easy-to-use format. TransparencyWV is now another site that can be used as a model for other states.