INDIANAPOLIS - A new report gives Indiana a “C+” in government spending transparency.
The U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund issued the grade in "Following the Money 2013: How the States Rank on Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data."
Indiana’s grade fell from an “A-” last year to this year’s “C+.”
According to the consumer group, the fall reflected rising grading standards which the state of Indiana failed to keep up with.
“Let’s be clear,” said Alec Sprague, federal field organizer with INPIRG. “Indiana’s falling score does not mean spending has become less transparent. It means most states are improving faster.”
For example, this year’s higher standards call for searchable information on economic development tax credits, which Indiana’s website has yet to provide.
“State governments across the country have become more transparent about where public money goes, providing citizens with the information they need to hold elected officials and businesses that receive public funds accountable,” said Sprague “But Indiana still has a long way to go.”
According to US PIRG, Indiana’s website contains checkbook-level information on contracts, non-contract spending, and grants, but lacks such information on economic development tax credits.
It also does not provide any details on spending by off-budget agencies and lacks adequate information to hold companies accountable for economic development subsidies, according to the consumer group.
“Open information about the public purse is crucial for democratic and effective government,” Sprague said. “It is not possible to ensure that government spending decisions are fair and efficient unless information is publicly accessible.”
Indiana could be taking steps in the right direction to make changes.
Tuesday, the General Assembly enacted legislation regarding economic development transparency.
Senate Bill 162 identifies the relevant information the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) will report to taxpayers and policymakers on economic development incentives.
The bill advances Gov. Mike Pence's plan to launch a transparency portal that will allow the public to search for IEDC projects by company and county, displaying the latest information about projects including the amount of tax credits certified for new jobs and investment, job creation figures and contracts.
“We’d like to see Indiana again become a leader in transparency by improving the breadth and ease-of-access of online government spending information,” Sprague said. “Given our state budget problems, Hoosiers need to be able to follow the money.”
To access the state’s transparency website, click here: www.in.gov/itp
To read the report, click here: http://uspirgedfund.org/reports/usf/following-money-2013