AUSTIN, Texas – The U.S. Public Interest Research Group has given Texas a grade of “A” for transparency in government spending.
The group describes Texas as “one of the true leaders in the transparency movement” and gives the state the highest possible score in 10 out of 12 scoring categories.
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs, who has pushed for greater online access to government spending data since taking office, said she’s pleased about the ranking.
“Our office is proud to be at the forefront of transparency efforts throughout the nation,” Combs said. “We constantly look for ways to put more government information online, using new tools to make data accessible and understandable to taxpayers.”
Combs notes that the Texas Transparency website, developed and maintained by the comptroller’s office, also offers information about local government spending, which few other states do; and Combs rewards cities, counties and school districts that show progress in financial transparency with the Comptroller’s Leadership Circle awards.
“I believe transparency is important at all levels of government and all levels of government must do more to ensure a free flow of information,” Combs said. “In this uncertain economic climate, expanded transparency initiatives are vital and open books allow government to function with the scrutiny and respect of citizens.”
U.S.PIRG says 40 states now provide an online database of government expenditures with checkbook-level detail, making it easier for citizens to follow the money and monitor government spending. But the group says a far greater effort is needed. Only nine states earned grades of “A” or “B” for transparency. Texas’ big-state competitors, New York and California, received a “C” and a “D+,” respectively.
On Combs’ third day in office, the agency was the first in Texas to open its books and reveal how it spends taxpayer dollars. Later, Combs began posting other state agency expenditures on the Where the Money Goes website, the state’s online check register. That effort has expanded into the Texas Transparency Web portal, an open-books initiative geared toward anyone interested in Texas government financial information.
U.S.PIRG is a consumer advocacy group. Its full report, Following the Money 2011, can be found at http://www.uspirg.org/home/reports/report-archives/tax—budget-policy/tax—budget-policy—reports/following-the-money-2011.
Visit the Texas transparency website at http://www.texastransparency.org/. Users are invited to provide feedback on the site by filling out a brief survey. U.S. PIRG gives Texas kudos for surveying users and asking for specific suggestions to improve the site.