New Jersey Gets C+ for Transparency [AUDIO]
When it comes to government spending transparency, New Jersey received a C+ in a new report by the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group Law and Policy Center titled "Following the Money 2014: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data." This is the fifth annual report of its kind.
"New Jersey's C+ grade reflects a middling effort by the state to improve spending transparency," said Jen Kim, NJPIRG state director. "Other 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 recipients of public subsidies accountable."
According to the report, the states with the most comprehensive transparency websites include Indiana, Florida, Oregon, Texas, Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont and Wisconsin. Idaho, Alaska and California have the least transparency.
"New Jersey is at the middle of the pack," Kim said. "Other states are becoming more transparent."
Since last year's report, at least eight states have launched brand new transparency websites, and most made improvements.
New Jersey is lacking in a couple of areas, including having more information available on some economic subsidy programs. Of the state's five biggest economic development subsidy programs, only three give checkbook level information on how much was given to which companies, according to Kim.
"That information is really important because people should know how their tax dollars are being spent," Kim said. "New Jersey could improve by having checkbook level detail for all subsidy programs and providing information on what those subsidy recipients are supposed to be doing in return for getting that subsidy, and consequently, if they're actually delivering on that."
Kim also said the governor should "set his sights high and make New Jersey a leader in open government."
"With all the controversy that New Jersey has seen recently," Kim said, "we should be shooting for an 'A.'"
The state's transparency website is operated by the New Jersey Office of the Treasurer. To visit, go to www.yourmoney.nj.gov. To see a full copy of the report, go to http://njpirg.org/reports/njp/following-money-2014.