CalPIRG gives California failing grade on spending transparency

Another open-government group has given California a failing grade for a lack of transparency, this time in how the state spends its money.

California received an “F’” grade from the CalPIRG Education Fund in part because the financial data it makes accessible to the public lack some information needed in order for residents to closely monitor state spending.


The group said all 50 states provide some checkbook-level information on state spending via the Internet, but information is not easily searchable in California and Vermont.

The state also has not done enough to provide easy access to checkbook-level data on non-contract spending and information about which companies benefit from economic development tax credits, the group said.

“Given the size of California’s budget, and the magnitude of our budget problems in the past, transparency in spending should be a top priority,” said Emily Rusch, state director of the CalPIRG Education Fund. “Instead, California is lagging far behind other states in disclosing where our tax dollars go.”

Eric Lamoureux, a spokesman for the state, said it is moving toward a new computer system that will make data searches easier.

“In the meantime, California deserves far more credit from CALPIRG for the breadth of contract data that it currently maintains on its eProcurment Web site,’’ said Lamoureaux, deputy director for the Department of General Services. “Virtually every contract that any state government agency executes is accessible from this site.’’

Rusch said the state, which is a hub of the technology industry, should do better at allowing citizens to see how money is spent.

“California doesn’t have a central transparency website, the limited information that is online isn’t as searchable as it should be, and we keep the public in the dark about corporate tax subsidies,” she said.


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