Collaborative transparency projects
Collaborative Transparency Projects focus on specific aspects of transparency. Each collaborative project involves the joint efforts of multiple wiki editors. The goal of each individual project is to build a comprehensive body of information about that specific transparency issue. Projects change on a monthly basis, and any work/website(s) resulting from these projects will be publicized in the Show Me The Spending Coalition's weekly transparency update and other media.
The goal of August's collaborative transparency project was to gather information on those states that currently do not have separate transparency portals online.
Transparency and openness in government spending is crucial in an open society as it reinforces our system of checks and balances. When citizens know how, where, and why their tax dollars are being spent they are far better able to hold government accountable and then demand changes. As a result, government becomes more responsive to constituent’s concerns, thus bolstering public confidence, promoting fiscal responsibility, and reducing the prospects of waste, fraud, and abuse. But until recently, when it came to tracking government expenditures online, we were left in the dark.
However, over the last few years state governments across the country have been changing that, creating entirely new web portals dedicated to spending transparency, listing state employee salaries, providing state operating budgets and the like. In addition, independent organizations have jumped on the transparency bandwagon, often times filling the void in states that do not yet have official government transparency sites. They too, organize financial information into user friendly and searchable format.
For the month of August 2010 Show Me the Spending kept people informed on those states which still lack separate transparency portals. And as a collaborative transparency effort, we encourage individuals and state-based watchdog groups to send any relevant transparency updates to Show Me the Spending. Tell us about your organization’s work, any state transparency developments, or legislative efforts for more transparency. Simply reply to the Show Me the Spending Coalition's Newsletter email with your information or update the wiki yourself.
The hope is to make Show Me the Spending an up to date information sharing website that keeps you in the light about transparency measures taking place around the country.
The goal of February's collaborative project was to relate each state's transparency, fiscal stability, and the portion of a federal stimulus it may receive. Although many factors determine whether a state is in the red or black, transparency is a significant one because it furthers economic stability by fostering efficient spending. As Texas Comptroller Susan Combs and others (dead link) have claimed, transparency enables government to eliminate waste, an objective for which all should strive during a recession. Likewise, the degree to which a state receives federal aid when it is insolvent will also, in the long-run, determine that state's tendency to develop prudent or ill-advised spending and budgetary habits. If bailouts are guaranteed when times are rough, foresight and frugal spending seem unnecessary when state coffers are full.
To contribute to this project, find out information about your state's
- estimated budget shortfall for what's left of the 2008-2009 fiscal year, and that shortfall's percentage of the spending that was planned for the 2008-2009 fiscal year
- anticipated cut from a federal stimulus package
The focus of January's group project was on bringing greater transparency to state and local education spending. Put up information about your state or local education spending by clicking here.
The focus of December's group project was discovering and listing budget websites and budget analyses for each state. While some budget pages are already available, they will be more useful when aggregated in a central location. Likewise, accurate, in-depth budget analyses are vital as citizens assess the decisions of government officials and legislators. Click here to add information about where citizens can find budget information and analysis for your state.
The focus of November's group project was discovering and listing state employee salary databases and information. Thanks to the Asbury Park Press, taxpayers have at least some information about federal employee salaries. Many states, however, lack this type of information:
- A handful of state governments enable citizens to search for specific state employees' salaries.
- Citizens of other states must use independently developed databases, often maintained by online newspapers.
- For citizens of some states, public employee salary information is not available online.
By the end of November, the Show Me The Spending Coalition planned to have every available public employee salary database listed on this page. To join in November's efforts alongside your fellow wiki editors, begin researching and then post your findings by clicking here.
Suggested future projects
Feel free to suggest future transparency collaborative projects on this page. For example:
- Independent education and school district transparency websites
- Information on state union activity and transparency. For example, the U.S. Department of Labor posts important transparency reports that detail how union bosses spend rank-and-file dues. Take a look at www.unionreports.gov.