Cost of state transparency websites
State transparency websites are designed to enhance public awareness of government spending and, in turn, fiscal responsibility. The cost of state transparency websites includes all of the financial costs required to establish and maintain such a website. Costs can differ widely based on the functions, state and vendors chosen, however a 2009 study by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University finds that governments typically overestimate these costs and disregard the savings that transparency websites create.  For example, the state of Maryland's Funding, Accountability & Transparency website lists only state expenditures that are in excess of $25,000. This would of course expose massive fraud or waste in the government, but does not allow for more minor abuses of power and taxpayer dollars to be found out as easily; and of course these are just the abuses that transparency websites are intended to prevent (or expose).
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that implementation of the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act would cost about $10 million initially in 2007 and about $15 million total over the 2007-2011 period. . Actual initial startup costs were much lower, at $600,000..
Cost estimates for creating an online transparency website have varied widely from state to state. As Nebraska's Treasurer Shane Osborn notes, such estimates are sometimes exaggerated. The following table, based on information received through email and original research, helps explain the cost of becoming transparent.
|State||Site||Legal Authority||Estimated cost-to-date||Estimated Annual Cost|
|Alaska||Alaska Checkbook Online||Executive Order||$5,000 of staff time, $15,000-$25,000 from existing budget|
|California||Reporting Transparency in Government Website||2009 A.B. 400||$21,000|
|Colorado||Transparency Online Project||D 007 09 Executive Order||$75,000 start-up costs + minimal costs||$25,000 "ongoing" cost|
|Delaware||Delaware Online Checkbook||Existing resources|
|Georgia||Open Georgia||Georgia Senate Bill 300 (2008)||Existing resources|
|Florida||Transparency Florida||2009 S.B. 1796||Existing resources|
|Illinois||Illinois Open Book||Hosted by State Comptroller Dan Hynes||Existing resources|
|Kansas||KanView||HB 2457||roughly $100,000 start-up costs + existing resources||existing resources|
|Kentucky||Kentucky's Open Door||Governor's Request||Existing resources ($150,000 to be requested for hardware and maintenance)|
|Kentucky||Check it out Kentucky!||Hosted by Secretary of State Trey Grayson||-|
|Kentucky||V.I.E.W.||Office of the Treasurer||-|
|Louisiana||LaTrac||Executive Order & Legislation||Existing resources ($1 million appropriated for expansion)|
|Maryland||Maryland:Funding Accountability & Transparency||HB 358||Existing resources (less than $100,000)|
|Mississippi||Mississippi:Management and Reporting System||-||-|
|Missouri||Missouri Accountability Portal||Executive Order||Existing resources with an estimated cost of $293,140|
|Nebraska||Nebraska Spending.com||Hosted by State Treasurer Shane Osborn||$38,000|
|Nevada||Nevada Open Government||EO-2008-03-18||$169,000|
|New York||Open Book New York||Hosted by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli||-|
|Oklahoma||Oklahoma Open Books||SB 1||Initial cost $40,000, future expenses $245-$260,000|
|Oregon||Oregon Transparency||2011 H.B. 282||Existing resources|
|Pennsylvania||Pennsylvania Contract e-Library||Hosted by State Treasurer Wiessman||$456,850|
|Rhode Island||Rhode Island Treasury Online Checkbook||Rhode Island Treasurer||Used existing monies.|
|South Carolina||South Carolina Spending Transparency||South Carolina Executive Order 2007-14||$25,000 - $50,000 from existing resources|
|South Dakota||open.sd.gov||Governor's Request & SB 143||Existing resources|
|Texas||Texas Window on State Government||House Bill 3430||$310,000 + minimal expenditures||minimal expenditure|
|Utah||Utah website (in development)||Senate Bill 38||Initial estimate was $480,000, actual cost was $283,250.67|
|West Virginia||West Virginia State Agency Grants||Senate Bill 4006 (2005)||Existing resources|
|Washington||Washington state budget||SB 6818||roughly $400,000||roughly $100,000|
The 2012 report "Following the Money 2012: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data," compiled by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, also included details regarding startup and annual operating costs of state transparency websites.
|State||Start Up Costs||Annual Operating Costs|
|Alabama||$125,000||Less than $12,000|
|Arizona||$72,000, plus existing staff time||$90,000|
|Colorado||$200,000, from existing budget, plus existing staff time||$169,400 from existing budget|
|Delaware||Existing budget||Existing budget|
|Georgia||Existing budget||Existing budget|
|Iowa||Less than $75,000||$6,000|
|Kansas||$150,000 from existing budget||Existing budget|
|Mississippi||$2,200,000||$400,000 (including operation of ARRA website)|
|Missouri||$293,140 from existing budget|
|New York||Existing budget|
|North Carolina||$624,000 for both transparency and ARRA website||$80,600|
|Ohio||Existing budget||Existing budget|
|Oklahoma||$8,000 plus existing staff time|
|Oregon||Existing budget||Existing budget|
|Rhode Island||Existing budget|
|South Carolina||$30,000 in existing staff time||Existing staff time|
|South Dakota||Not tracked (nominal)||Existing budget|
|Utah||$192,800, plus existing staff time ($100,000)||$133,400|
|West Virginia||Existing budget|
The software used by the Office of Management and Budget to create USASpending.gov is now available for free from OMB Watch. And as site developers learn, and decide to utilize open-source software tools, costs lower and the most prevalent argument against establishing transparency sites is eroded further still.
- Center for Fiscal Accountability, Transparency in Government Spending in the States
- U.S. PIRG, Transparency.gov 2.0: Using The Internet For Budget Transparency To Increase Accountability, Efficiency And Taxpayer Confidence, Dec. 3, 2008
- http://www.mercatus.org/uploadedFiles/Mercatus/Publications/MOP40_GAP_Transparency_web.pdf Mercatus Center at George Mason University, “The Cost of State Online Spending-Transparency Initiatives,” April 2009, p. 3
- [Brito, J and Okolski G. The Cost of State Online Spending-Transparency Initiatives, "Mercatus on Policy," Mercatus Center. April 2009, Vol. 40.
- http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/74xx/doc7483/s2590.pdf Congressional Budget Office, "Cost Estimate of S. 2590—Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006," August 9, 2006
- Elizabeth Williamson, “OMB Offers an Easy Way to Follow the Money,” Washington Post, December 13, 2007, A33
- Mercatus Center, The Cost of State Online Spending Transparency Initiatives, April 2009
- MASSPIRG "Following the Money"
- Colorado's Governor Website, Press Release - Colorado Transparency Online Project
- MASSPIRG "Following the Money"
- e-mail exchange, cost of KanView
- opendoor.ky.gov, "About"
- e-mail exchange, cost of open Nevada
- National Taxpayers Union, Testimony of Kristina Rasmussen, NTU Government Affairs Director, Submitted to the Health and Government Operations Committee, Maryland House of Delegates, Regarding HB 358, the Maryland Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, Feb. 6, 2008
- MASSPIRG "Following the Money"
- Estimate based upon information from the Pennsylvania Contract e-Library; specifically, two contracts the state had with Koryak Consulting
- Rhode Island Treasurer, How much did this project cost?
- Open Records, Section C}
- Center for Fiscal Accountability, Another Proof That Spending Transparency is Usually Less Costly Than Anticipated, May 29, 2009
- Sutherland Institue, FOIA request, Jan. 29, 2009
- e-mail exchange, cost of Fiscal.WA.gov
- "Following the Money 2012: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data," U.S. PIRG Education Fund, March, 2012
- OMB Watch, Action Center