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Danny Katz,
CoPIRG Foundation

Colorado’s Stimulus Spending Website Ranked 4th Best

Receives High Marks for Transparency

Denver, January 26, 2010—a report released today shows that Colorado’s websites designed to disseminate information about its share of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), are dramatically better than most other state’s websites.

This is one of the findings of Show Us the Stimulus (Again), a report released today by the Colorado Public Interest Research Group (CoPIRG) and Colorado Common Cause and produced by Good Jobs First, a non-profit research center based in Washington, DC. The report updates a similar study published last July of all 50 states’ and the District of Columbia’s websites.

“Colorado should feel proud that we are a leader when it comes to the transparency of the stimulus spending in our state.” said Danny Katz, Director of CoPIRG. “We are talking about billions of dollars and everyone in the state needs to know where that money is going and what it is accomplishing.”

The full text of the report as well as the appendix for Colorado and other states can be found at 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. Colorado received a score of 72.

Overall, Colorado’s websites received points for breaking down stimulus allocations by program area, providing an interactive map of Colorado that shows significant details of stimulus spending by county and by project including names of contractors, and allowing data to be downloadable. In addition, Colorado was one of only two states to have an online feed that provides continuous updates on data relating to specific contract and grant projects.

Colorado missed points for not allowing spending allocations to be compared to areas of economic distress to determine if the money is going to some of the hardest hit areas and providing the language of the actual contracts.

“Some states are making great strides in fulfilling President Obama’s promise that the Recovery Act would be carried out with an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability,” said Good Jobs First executive director Greg LeRoy. “Led by Maryland, which again receives the highest score, these states’ ARRA websites do a good job in helping taxpayers understand and evaluate the role of the Recovery Act in job creation and state fiscal relief.”

The states scoring highest for transparency of stimulus funds in the new report are: Maryland (87), Kentucky (85), Connecticut (80), Colorado (72), Minnesota (72), and Wisconsin (72).

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.

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 like Colorado.
  • Via maps or otherwise, Colorado joined 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.

“Colorado continues to make improvements that increase transparency and show citizens where the money is going,” says Jenny Flanagan, Director of Colorado Common Cause. “It is unfortunate that other states are not prioritizing this like Colorado.”

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