NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 23, 2009

A growing number of states are putting everything from budgets and contracts to travel expenses online for the public to scrutinize, says USA Today.  The trend took off in 2006 after Congress created a publicly searchable Website for all federal contracts and grants over $25,000.  In February 2009, the Obama administration launched a Web site ( where people can keep track of the money spent in the federal stimulus package.

The states soon followed:

  • Kansas was the first state to pass a law requiring creation of a Web site detailing state expenditures in 2007.
  • Texas invested $310,000 in its "Where the Money Goes" Website, which went live in January 2007; the emphasis on transparency helped departments analyze how they spent money and where they could save.
  • The Web site helped save $4.8 million and identified an additional $3.8 million in expected savings.

Currently, 12 states post all their state spending, six post the checkbooks of selected departments and seven have passed laws ordering the creation of online spending Web sites, says USA Today.  The most recent to go online were Kentucky, Georgia and Maryland.  An additional 15 are considering legislation:

  • A group of 27 bipartisan legislators in Oregon are sponsoring a bill, the "Open Books Oregon Project," that would require the state to create a searchable Website by January 1, 2010, listing revenue and expenditures for all state agencies.
  • Both houses of the Virginia Legislature have passed versions of a transparency bill.
  • Colorado Governor Bill Ritter (D) is working with state Treasurer Cary Kennedy and state lawmakers to put the state's "checkbook" online.

Furthermore, the sites have proved popular, and are becoming an empowering tool for taxpayers, says USA Today.

Source: Tracy Loew, "States put spending details online," USA Today, February 23, 2009.

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