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Cost of state transparency websites

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State Information

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.[1] For example, the state of Maryland's Funding, Accountability & Transparency website lists only state expenditures that are in excess of $25,000.[2] 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).

Federal Costs

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.[3]. Actual initial startup costs were much lower, at $600,000.[4].

State costs

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[5]
California Reporting Transparency in Government Website 2009 A.B. 400 $21,000[6]
Colorado Transparency Online Project D 007 09 Executive Order[7] $75,000 start-up costs + minimal costs[7] $25,000 "ongoing" cost[7]
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[8]
Illinois Illinois Open Book Hosted by State Comptroller Dan Hynes Existing resources
Kansas KanView HB 2457 (dead link) roughly $100,000 start-up costs + existing resources[9] existing resources[9]
Kentucky Kentucky's Open Door Governor's Request[10] 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)[5]
Maryland Maryland:Funding Accountability & Transparency HB 358 Existing resources (less than $100,000)[5]
Mississippi Mississippi:Management and Reporting System - -
Missouri Missouri Accountability Portal Executive Order Existing resources with an estimated cost of $293,140[5]
Nebraska Nebraska Hosted by State Treasurer Shane Osborn $38,000[5]
Nevada Nevada Open Government EO-2008-03-18 $169,000[11]
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[12]
Oregon Oregon Transparency 2011 H.B. 282 Existing resources[13]
Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Contract e-Library Hosted by State Treasurer Wiessman $456,850[14]
Rhode Island Rhode Island Treasury Online Checkbook Rhode Island Treasurer Used existing monies.[15]
South Carolina South Carolina Spending Transparency South Carolina Executive Order 2007-14 $25,000 - $50,000 from existing resources[5]
South Dakota Governor's Request & SB 143 Existing resources
Texas Texas Window on State Government House Bill 3430 $310,000 + minimal expenditures[16] minimal expenditure[16]
Utah Utah website (in development) Senate Bill 38 Initial estimate was $480,000, actual cost was $283,250.67[17][18]
West Virginia West Virginia State Agency Grants Senate Bill 4006 (2005) Existing resources
Washington Washington state budget and finances SB 6818 roughly $400,000[19] roughly $100,000[19]
See a chart on the functionality of the websites
See a complete listing of transparency websites


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.[20]

State Start Up Costs Annual Operating Costs
Alabama $125,000 Less than $12,000
Alaska $5,000 “Nominal”
Arizona $72,000, plus existing staff time $90,000
California $21,000
Colorado $200,000, from existing budget, plus existing staff time $169,400 from existing budget
Connecticut $13,000 Existing budget
Delaware Existing budget Existing budget
Florida Existing budget
Georgia Existing budget Existing budget
Iowa Less than $75,000 $6,000
Kansas $150,000 from existing budget Existing budget
Kentucky $15,000
Louisiana $325,000 “Minimal”
Maryland $65,000 $5,000
Massachusetts $540,000
Michigan Existing budget
Minnesota Existing budget
Mississippi $2,200,000 $400,000 (including operation of ARRA website)
Missouri $293,140 from existing budget
Nebraska $30,000-$60,000 $10,800
Nevada $78,000 $30,000
New Mexico $230,000 $125,000
New York Existing budget
North Carolina $624,000 for both transparency and ARRA website $80,600
North Dakota $231,000 $30,000
Ohio Existing budget Existing budget
Oklahoma $8,000 plus existing staff time
Oregon Existing budget Existing budget
Pennsylvania $372,000
Rhode Island Existing budget
South Carolina $30,000 in existing staff time Existing staff time
South Dakota Not tracked (nominal) Existing budget
Tennessee Existing budget
Texas $310,000 Existing budget
Utah $192,800, plus existing staff time ($100,000) $133,400
Virginia $500,000 $400,000
Washington $300,000
West Virginia Existing budget
Wyoming $1,600


The software used by the Office of Management and Budget to create is now available for free from OMB Watch.[21] 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.

External links


  1. Mercatus Center at George Mason University, “The Cost of State Online Spending-Transparency Initiatives,” April 2009, p. 3
  2. [Brito, J and Okolski G. The Cost of State Online Spending-Transparency Initiatives, "Mercatus on Policy," Mercatus Center. April 2009, Vol. 40.
  3. Congressional Budget Office, "Cost Estimate of S. 2590—Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006," August 9, 2006
  4. Elizabeth Williamson, “OMB Offers an Easy Way to Follow the Money,” Washington Post, December 13, 2007, A33
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Mercatus Center, The Cost of State Online Spending Transparency Initiatives, April 2009
  6. MASSPIRG "Following the Money"
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Colorado's Governor Website, Press Release - Colorado Transparency Online Project
  8. MASSPIRG "Following the Money"
  9. 9.0 9.1 e-mail exchange, cost of KanView
  10., "About"
  11. e-mail exchange, cost of open Nevada
  12. 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
  13. MASSPIRG "Following the Money"
  14. Estimate based upon information from the Pennsylvania Contract e-Library; specifically, two contracts the state had with Koryak Consulting
  15. Rhode Island Treasurer, How much did this project cost?
  16. 16.0 16.1 Open Records, Section C}
  17. Center for Fiscal Accountability, Another Proof That Spending Transparency is Usually Less Costly Than Anticipated, May 29, 2009
  18. Sutherland Institue, FOIA request, Jan. 29, 2009
  19. 19.0 19.1 e-mail exchange, cost of
  20. "Following the Money 2012: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data," U.S. PIRG Education Fund, March, 2012
  21. OMB Watch, Action Center