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Utah gets B- for online disclosure of spending

Published April 8, 2014 9:54 pm

Transparency • State website received grade for covering the basics.
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Utah received a B- in an annual report card Tuesday for its online disclosure of spending by state and local governments — dropping from a B+ a year earlier.

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, a Boston-based group that seeks to protect consumers and promote good government, says it raises its grading standards each year. So states must improve transparency to keep grades high.

Utah provides information about how state and local governments spend their money on the website Utah.gov/transparency.

The website received good grades for providing basic "check-book" level information on spending and salaries. States that received higher grades went the extra mile to provide similar line-item spending data about groups that receive government subsidies.

"Six states provide public access to checkbook-level data on the subsidy recipients for each of the state's most important economic development programs," the group said.

It adds that that allows "citizens and public officials to hold subsidy recipients accountable by listing the public benefits that specific companies were expected to provide and [show] the benefits they actually delivered."

The report said the states with the most comprehensive transparency websites — all receiving an "A-" grade — are Indiana, Oregon, Florida, Texas, Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont and Wisconsin.

Three states received failing grades: California, Alaska and Idaho.

Utah was among 20 states that received B-level grades.

"Open information about the public purse is crucial for democratic and effective government," said Sam Wilson-Moses, field organizer with the group. "It is not possible to ensure that government spending decisions are fair and efficient unless information is publicly accessible."

He said top-flight transparency websites can save money for taxpayers while also restoring public confidence in government and preventing misspending or "pay-to-play" contracts.