Virginia earns B- on report measuring transparency of government spending
Virginia has been downgraded on an annual report measuring transparency of government spending.
The commonwealth’s grade dropped from a B+ to a B- during an annual review by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG) Education Fund. In its sixth annual report entitled, “Following the Money 2015: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data,” PIRG analyzed which states were improving their online transparency and which ones were falling behind.
“This year, most states have continued to make their budgets more open to the public, allowing users to better scrutinize how the government uses their tax dollars,” Phineas Baxandall, US PIRG education fund senior analyst, said in a statement. “Virginia has unfortunately been unable to keep up with rising standards and has fallen behind.”
Officials from Virginia and 46 other states provided the organization’s researchers with feedback on their initial evaluation of state transparency websites. Based on an inventory of the content and ease-of-use of states' websites, the report assigned each state a grade of “A” to “F.”
According to the report, the states with the most comprehensive transparency websites are Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Oregon, Louisiana, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Montana, New York, Texas, and South Dakota.
The US PIRG Education Fund says Virginia is an “advancing” state in the report this year, though it did lose a few points since 2014 and risks falling behind as national standards rise. US PIRG'S report notes that Virginia's economic incentives report only provides anonymized data rather than specific information about subsidy recipients. To become a leader in state budget transparency, Virginia would need to expand its disclosures about such economic development programs and allow for bulk downloads for all data, PIRG said.
The U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund works to protect consumers and promote good government.
Virginia’s transparency website is operated by the Virginia Auditor of Public Accounts.