A report released today shows that many states are making dramatic improvements in websites designed to disseminate information about their share of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) while others, such as Vermont, have failed to make vital information available.
This is the finding of Show Us the Stimulus (Again), a report released today by the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) and produced by Good Jobs First, a non-profit research center based in Washington, DC. The report released today updates a similar study published last July.
The Recovery Act has prompted many states to ratchet up transparency and show citizens where their money is going. There’s no reason why every state shouldn’t achieve a perfect score. Unfortunately, Vermont is among the worst the worst offenders when it comes to transparency.
To access the full text of the report as well as the appendix for Vermont and other states go to: www.goodjobsfirst.org/stimulusweb.cfm.
The study examines the quality and quantity of disclosure by official state websites on the many different ways that more than $200 billion in ARRA funding is flowing through state governments to communities, organizations and individuals. It examines the availability of information on spending programs as well as specific grants and contracts including data relating to jobs and the geographic distribution of spending within states. Using seven main criteria, each state was graded on a scale of 0 to 100. Vermont received a score of just 13.
The states scoring highest for transparency of stimulus funds in the new report are: Maryland (87), Kentucky (85), Connecticut (80), Colorado (72), Minnesota (72), Wisconsin (72), California (69), Illinois (69), Oregon (67), Massachusetts (65), Georgia (64), West Virginia (64), New Mexico (62), New York (62), Pennsylvania (62), Montana (61) and Arkansas (60).
At the other end, the ten states with the least adequate information on ARRA programs and specific projects, starting from the worst scoring, are: North Dakota (5), District of Columbia (6), Missouri (10), Alaska (13), Vermont (13), Louisiana (16), Mississippi (17), Idaho (18), Oklahoma (18), Texas (18) and South Carolina (19).
Although changes in methodology make exact comparisons impossible, some states improved greatly since a similar ranking in July. Kentucky soared from 47th place to 2nd; Illinois jumped from 50th to 7th; Minnesota climbed from 34th to 4th and Utah rose from 50th to 24th place. Here are highlights of specific findings:
Most states do a good job of providing information on the composition of their ARRA spending, both in broad program categories (energy, housing, transportation, etc.) and in narrower ones. Only the District of Columbia provides no program allocation information at all.
Only three states—Kentucky, Maryland and Wisconsin—provide side-by-side comparison of the geographic distribution of spending with patterns of economic distress or need within the state.
Besides overall spending amounts, state residents can see where individual ARRA projects such as the repaving of a road or repair of a school building are taking place. More than half the states (28) now have some kind of project mapping feature on their ARRA site; Vermont does not.
Via maps or otherwise, Vermont was not among 41 states in providing one or more of the following types of detail on projects funded through ARRA grants and contracts: description, dollar amount, recipient name, completion status, and the full text of contracts or grant awards. Four states—Connecticut, Kentucky, Massachusetts and New Hampshire—included all these elements.
Ten states have no information about actual job creation on their websites: Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina and the District of Columbia. By contrast, 16 states list jobs data on individual projects as well as totals by program area and for the state as a whole.
Only five states—Connecticut, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Mississippi and New Hampshire—provide the full texts of at least some ARRA contract awards.
The full text of the report as well as the appendix for Vermont and other states will be posted at www.goodjobsfirst.org/stimulusweb.cfm.