Do you know where NJ’s money goes? State gets a ‘B’ for transparency
The state of New Jersey gets a "B" in a new report when it comes to its level of spending transparency.
The Public Interest Research Group's seventh annual Following the Money report says one big transparency flaw is a lack of information about how economic development money is spent.
New Jersey maintains a transparency site at YourMoney.NJ.gov, but NJPIRG says it could provide more detail.
"Some of the state's biggest subsidies, such as the urban enterprise zone program, actually do not have checkbook level data available online," Group Program Associate Michele Surka said.
She said New Jersey spends millions in tax dollars on contracting, on tax incentives, on economic development subsidies — everything from paying a state official, all the way to granting a corporation a tax break for creating jobs.
"(Detail on those expenses) is all what we count as spending transparency," she said.
What the PIRG report looks at is how accessible that information and data are to an ordinary person in the state.
The report, called gives each state a grade from "A" to "F."
"What our report is really looking at is how accessible are the expenditures that a state like New Jersey makes to the ordinary public," Surka said.
Surka said while that "B" ain't bad, New Jersey had the same transparency rating last year. She said ideally, "we should be able to follow that money from when we send our check in on tax day, all the way to when that money is actually spent."
She said for most things, New Jersey is actually very successful.
The state has checkbook-level spending information for all of its expenditures, "the website is easily searchable, and the website even includes information about traditionally off-budget agencies like qualified public agencies, which a lot of other states actually do not do."
The most spending-transparent states in the report are Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Connecticut, according to PIRG.
Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5.