August 31, 2014

Wisconsin gets “F” in spending transparency

Wisconsin is one of five states receiving failing grades in online spending transparency, according to Bruce Speight, WISPIRG Foundation Director. “The government of Wisconsin should be transparent about its spending, its contracting, and the special subsidies and tax breaks it issues. Transparency promotes fiscal responsibility, bolsters public confidence in government, and prevents waste, fraud, and abuse.”

Following the Money 2013 is the fourth annual report of its kind by the WISPIRG Foundation, based on an inventory of the content and ease-of-use of the websites. The report finds that even after state leaders lost track of $50 million in taxpayer loans, Wisconsin taxpayers still have little to no information about how tax dollars are being spent. Speight says, “We’ve got a lot of work to do and state leaders need to get crackin’.”

Speight points out that Wisconsin’s failing score does not mean spending has become less transparent; instead, it means other states are improving faster. The state’s Contract Sunshine website provides information on some expenditures, but Speight says it lacks information that the vast majority of states also provide with very little upfront cost. Seven states get “A” ratings, including neighboring Illinois and Michigan. Minnesota got a “C”.

“But in Wisconsin taxpayers have little to no information about state spending.”

The Walker Administration reportedly will launch a new website in the coming days called “Open Book Wisconsin.” Speight says it’s hard to say how much the proposed site will improve transparency until he sees it.