Mo. Gets 'C' in New Transparency Report

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Elizabeth Crisp

Missouri gets a “C” in providing online access to spending data, according to a report out today.

The United States Public Interest Research Group reviewed state transparency sites and graded them on how easy it is for the public to peek inside government checkbooks to see who is receiving taxpayer dollars, how much they are getting and for what purpose.

“State governments across the country continue to be more transparent about where the money goes, extending checkbook-level disclosure of data on spending to contracting, tax subsidies, development incentives and other expenditures,” U.S. PIRG senior analyst Phineas Baxandall said in a news release. “But Missouri still has a long way to go.”

Texas, Kentucky, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, West Virginia and Arizona lead the pack with the most comprehensive transparency websites, according to the report.

The transparency bug seems to be catching on. Researchers found that 46 states now have online databases of government spending at “checkbook-level” detail – up from 32 states two years ago.

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

Scoring a 72.5 out of 100, Missouri is described as an “emerging” state. One deficiency highlighted in the report is that the state doesn’t provide access to contracts and detailed descriptions of expenditures. Because the state did not keep pace with its peers, Missouri fell from the “C+” score it received last year.