Illinois & Stimulus Transparency


[Updates 8/2: Handy ARRA map w/links to state summaries and Illinois’ ARRA site.]

We love Good Jobs First because it’s taught us about development subsidies and TIF. This week, GJF released a report rating the quality of each state’s disclosure of its use of funds provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

The Good Jobs First study examines the quality and quantity of disclosure by official state websites on the many ways ARRA funding is flowing through state governments to communities, organizations and individuals. Looking at both spending programs and individual projects, it evaluates the general ARRA websites that all states have created as well as their website reporting specifically on ARRA highway projects. Based on ten different criteria, each state (and the District of Columbia) is graded twice on a scale of 0 to 100.

Six states score 50 or better for their main ARRA site: Maryland (80), Colorado (68), Washington (63), West Virginia (60), New York (53) and Pennsylvania (50). Thirteen states score 50 or better for their highway reporting, led by Maryland (75), Washington (73), Colorado (65) and Nebraska (60). The average score for the ARRA websites is 28, and for highway reporting 38.

Where do you suppose Illinois ranked?

Most states that score poorly for their main ARRA website do better in highway reporting, but five score very low for both: Alabama, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Kentucky and Vermont. Low-scoring states are ones that provide few specifics on how ARRA money is being used in the state. Illinois, which gets a zero in both categories, has only national figures and nothing on how much is being spent in the state.

Let’s make this perfectly clear: Illinois is the ONLY state with zeros in both transparency categories.

Philip Mattera, GJB director and principal author of the report, expressed surprise at the overall low rankings given ARRA’s high profile. He must be from Maryland.

Massachusetts, Delaware and Maine are each providing at least some online access to actual ARRA contracts.

You can find individual state scores here and the full report here. The report offers recommendations, which the authors point out are, for the most part, “simply matters of good web design and best practices in government transparency.” Even more importantly:

Ultimately, the use of ARRA websites to inform the public is more than a matter of providing a service to state residents. The way in which the information is presented could be decisive in determining public attitudes toward the stimulus and play a significant role in debates over future government interventions in the economy.