The State of Oregon welcomed the new decade with the launch of a new website designed to increase transparency in state government. Calling Oregon Transparency “the first step in a very long journey,” Marjorie Taylor, Senior Policy Advisor in the Department of Administrative Services, explains that coordinating data from over 80 state agencies was just the beginning.
Oregon Transparency Not unlike the majority of other states, Oregon had many different data systems in place, spanning its many agencies. The challenge, according to Marjorie Taylor, was linking these systems to each other in one centralized portal.
The site has its roots in House Bill 2500, passed by the Oregon legislature in 2009, which required the Department of Administrative Services to establish an interactive, one-stop website where citizens and other interested parties can obtain information on state spending.
The requirements of the original bill had to be honed down to make the process a more manageable – particularly under budget restrictions which stipulated that the information needed to be provided at “low to no cost.”
From content devoted to citizen education (e.g., “Find out how the state creates a budget”) to key performance measures for respective state agencies and an analysis of revenue sources, the website provides a broad spectrum of materials aimed at a wide audience.
Oregon is the most recent addition to an ever-increasing list of states with transparency websites.
According to the Center for Fiscal Accountability, spending transparency bills have been passed in 29 states through November 2009. Currently, 24 states have spending transparency portals that were created by legislation or executive order.
The Center for Fiscal Accountability, a project of Americans for Tax Reform, a national taxpayer advocacy organization, maintains an ongoing a list of official state transparency websites. (See sidebar.)
As noted by the Center for Fiscal Accountability, “the portals vary in quality and comprehensiveness.” According to Oregon’s Marjorie Taylor, several factors influence the scope of a website of this nature, particularly when the site is mandated by legislation and limited by budget restraints. Questions to be considered:
- What specific data will be included?
- How will the data be connected?
- What content has been mandated by legislation to post?
- How much funding has been given to the project?
For now, Oregon plans to update its transparency site annually, though some proponents would like to see more frequent updates.
The launch of Oregon Transparency marks the notable “first step” in the journey referenced by Marjorie Taylor, who says, “We look forward to enhancing the website in the future to meet the transparency needs of Oregonians.”
State Government Transparency Websites
The following is a list of websites devoted to transparency in government spending.
As the trend toward transparency is on the rise – particularly since the passage of the American Reinvestment & Recovery Act of 2009 – and more states mandate online public access to information about government spending, this list will continue to grow as well.
California (Reporting Transparency in Government)
Colorado (Transparency Online Project)
Louisiana Transparency and Accountability (LaTrac)
Maryland Funding Accountability and Transparency
Minnesota Transparency and Accountability Project
Mississippi Management and Reporting System
Missouri Accountability Portal
South Carolina Spending Transparency
South Dakota (Open South Dakota)
Texas Window on State Government
Washington State Fiscal Information
Wyoming (Transparency in Wyoming Government)
Source: Center for Fiscal Accountability, a project of Americans for Tax Reform