Evaluation of Montana state website

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MT.gov is the website for the state of Montana.

Website evaluation

Elected Officials
Administrative Officials
Lobbying P
Public records N
600px-Red x.png
State agency websitesGuide.png
Transparency grading process

This website was reviewed on January 21, 2012.

The good

  • The site has a good search function and is fairly easy to navigate, particularly with the clearly organized list of agencies.[1]
  • Elected officials are listed with contact information.[2]
  • An employee directory is posted.[3]
  • An agency phone directory is posted.[4]
  • Audits are posted.[5]
  • Budgets are posted.[6]
  • Tax information is available.[7]
  • Lobbying laws and a lobbyist list are available.[8]
  • Ethics information is posted.[9]
  • State contracts are posted.[10][11]
  • Bid opportunities are posted.[12]

The bad

U.S. PIRG rating

The U.S. PIRG rated the state website an "F" on providing online access to government spending data, with a score of 7 out of 100.[13]

The scorecard that U.S. PIRG uses has 13 items and focuses on a separate state website that is searchable at the checkbook level. Sunshine Review, on the other hand, focuses on the availability of separate spending-related items; they do not need to be in a central database.

Item Possible points Notes
Checkbook-level website 30 Detailed expenditure information, including individual payments made to vendors.
Search by vendor 8 Ability to search checkbook-level expenditures by contractor or vendor name.
Search by keyword of activity 8 Ability to search checkbook-level expenditures by type of service or item purchased, category, or government fund.
Search by agency or departments 8 Ability to search checkbook-level expenditures by branch of government.
Contract or summary information 10 A copy of the contract or detailed summary information is included for the expenditures.
Historical expenditures 5 Checkbook-level expenditure data from previous fiscal years.
Grants and economic development incentives information 10 Awardee-specific grants and/or economic development incentives are included in the checkbook tool or elsewhere with specific award amounts.
Downloadable 3 Information can be downloaded for data analysis.
Tax expenditure reports 10 The state's tax expenditure report is linked on the website.
Off-budget agencies 2 Expenditures from quasi-public agencies are included on the website.
City and county budgets 2 Financial information for some local governments is accessible.
ARRA Funding 2 A link is provided to the state's website that tracks funding related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Feedback 2 Website users are capable and encouraged to give feedback about the site.

There are several similarities between the checklists. For both checklists, the searchability of information factors in to how usability is rated. Both checklists have an item relating to contracts, tax information, and the budget. The U.S. PIRG requires information for quasi public entities; Sunshine Review requires information on lobbying, which includes quasi public entities' lobbying activity.

Unlike the Sunshine Review checklist with each check worth one point, different items on the U.S. PIRG checklist merit more or fewer points, depending on the item.

State Integrity Investigation

The 2012 State Integrity Investigation graded state ethics laws according to an "Integrity Index." The index was created by researching 330 "Integrity Indicators" across 14 categories of state government. The report assigned grades based on what laws are on the books, and whether or not they were effectively enforced. The report was a project of The Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity, and Public Radio International.[14]

Montana received an overall grade of D+, or 68%. It ranked 27 out of the 50 states.[15]

Category Grade
Public Access to Information F
Political Financing D
Executive Accountability C+
Legislative Accountability C-
Judicial Accountability F
State Budget Processes C-
State Civil Service Management D-
Procurement B-
Internal Auditing A
Lobbying Disclosure F
State Pension Fund Management F
Ethics Enforcement Agencies F
State Insurance Commissions C+
Redistricting A

Transparency Legislation


Resource Run by Includes Year URL
Office of Budget Programming and Planning State Budget info 2011 http://budget.mt.gov/execbudgets/default.mcpx
Recovery State Tracks federal stimulus funds 2011 http://www.recovery.mt.gov/default.mcpx (dead link)
Big Sky Search Montana Policy Institute Transparency advocacy 2011 http://bigskysearch.info/
Follow the Money National Institute on Money in Politics Campaign contributions 2010 http://www.followthemoney.org/database/state_overview.phtml?y=2010&s=MT


State and Local Employees

According to 2008 Census data, the state of Montana and local governments in the state employed a total of 79,153 people.[16] Of those employees, 46,560 were full-time employees receiving a net pay of $161,277,671 per month and 23,534 were part-time employees paid $19,716,027 per month.[16] Nearly 50% of those employees, or 39,280 employees, were in education or higher education.[16]

Gov. Brian Schweitzer's administration and three major state employee unions, included the largest Montana Public Employees Association and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employee (MEA-MFT), tentatively agreed to a 4 percent raise during the 2012-2013 biennium for state public employees.[17] The raises are expected to cost the state $21.6 million, if it is approved by the Montana Legislature.[18]

Census workers

10 Montana census workers attended a "lessons learned" meeting in Vegas, which was bill at $90,000 total cost.[19]

State Employee Benefits


The State of Montana has developed a comprehensive group insurance benefits program including medical plan options with prescription drug and vision exam coverage, dental plan, an employee assistance program (EAP), life insurance options, flexible spending account options, and long term care insurance. The current state contribution covers the cost of the employee's "core" medical, dental and basic life insurance; employees may obtain optional coverage for his or her self or eligible dependents at additional costs.[20]

New employees earn 15 days of vacation, 12 sick days, 10-11 holidays (depending on election cycle).[21] Employees who have been employed by the state for longer than 10 years can earn 18 days of vacation per year, and increases for time of service up to 24 days of vacation earned per year.[22] Part-time employees earn time on a prorated basis.[22]

State employees receive the follow paid holidays[23]:

  • New Year's Day
  • Martin Luther King Day
  • Lincoln's and Washington's Birthday
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Columbus Day
  • Veteran's Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day
  • State General Election Day

Unused vacation leave

Annual leave accrual is tied to the length of employment, but caps at 384 for the longest tenured employees, who are then paid out at a full hourly rate when they leave their job.[24] There is not a cap for sick leave which may be accumulated and is paid out for 25 percent of the hours are paid out at the employee's current hourly rate.[24]

In 2010, 13,000 public employees have accrued funds through unused sick and vacation leave. The top ten employees have a combined 3,200 hours of sick leave, and two employees expect pay outs of $82,000 and almost $70,000.[24]

Public v. Private sector

Montana reported an increase of 0.06 percent of residents living in poverty in 2009, up to 15.1 percent from 14.5 percent in 2008.[25]


Membership in the Montana Public Employees' Retirement System (PERS) is mandatory for most state employees and begins on the first day of employment. Mandatory contributions to PERS are tax deferred and may not be refunded for any reason before termination of covered employment.[26]

Montana’s highest paid pension is $116,587 in annual benefits.[27] Twenty-nine others receive more than $70,000.[27]

Contribution Rates

Employees contribute 6.9% of their salary.[28] The state contributes 7.035% of the employee's salary.[28]

Funding Levels

The state's pension liabilities can be calculated in a variety of ways, which yield different numbers. Below are the numbers as calculated by to the Pew Center on the States,[29] the American Enterprise Institute[30] and Professors Robert Novy-Marx of the University of Chicago and Joshua Rauh of Northwestern University, Kellogg Graduate School of Management.[31]

In Thousands
PEW (2008) AEI (2008) Kellogg (2009)
$1,549,503 $8,633,301 $7,100,000

Public Records

The Montana Public Records Act is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of government bodies at all levels in Montana.

The Montana Open Meetings Law legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted.

To learn more about how to make a public records request in this state, please see: Montana FOIA procedures.

External links


  1. MT.gov, "Agency Listing," accessed January 21, 2012
  2. MT.gov, "Elected Officials," accessed January 21, 2012
  3. MT.gov, "Directory," accessed January 21, 2012
  4. MT.gov, "Agency Directory," accessed January 21, 2012
  5. MT.gov, "CAFR," accessed January 21, 2012
  6. MT.gov, "Budgets," accessed January 21, 2012
  7. MT.gov, "Department of Revenue," accessed January 21, 2012
  8. MT.gov, "Lobbying," accessed January 21, 2012
  9. MT.gov, "Ethics," accessed January 21, 2012
  10. MT.gov, "Term Contracts," accessed January 21, 2012
  11. MT.gov, "Contracts," accessed January 21, 2012
  12. MT.gov, "Solicitations," accessed January 21, 2012
  13. US PIRG, Following the Money: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data, March 14, 2012
  14. "50 states and no winners," State Integrity Investigation, StateIntegrity.org
  15. Montana Corruption Risk Report Card, State Integrity Investigation, StateIntegrity.org
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 2008 Montana Public Employment U.S. Census Data
  17. Montana Watchdog, State employees make case for higher pay to House committee, Jan. 31, 2011
  18. Montana Watchdog, Governor, unions propose plan for 4 percent raise in 2012-2013, Nov. 10, 2010
  19. Watchdog, 10 Census workers from Montana attend $90,000 Vegas meeting, Sept. 28, 2010
  20. Health and Life Insurance (dead link)
  21. Salary and Benefits Overview Information (dead link)
  22. 22.0 22.1 Vacation (dead link)
  23. Holidays (dead link)
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 Watchdog, Looming payouts raise questions about Montana unused time off policy, Oct. 25, 2010
  25. Montana Watchdog, More Montanans fall below poverty level in 2009, Census Bureau study find, Sept. 30, 2010
  26. Retirement (dead link)
  27. 27.0 27.1 Watchdog, Top Montana retiree gets more than $100,000 in pension benefits, Aug. 30, 2010
  28. 28.0 28.1 [1]
  29. "State Pensions and Retiree Healthcare Benefits: The Trillion Dollar Gap,” Pew Center on the States," accessed January 4, 2011
  30. Biggs, Andrew, “The Market Value of Public-Sector Pension Deficits,” AEI Outlook Series, no. 1 (2010)
  31. Novy-Marx, Robert and Joshua Rauh, 2010, "Public Pension Promises: How Big Are They and What Are They Worth," Journal of Finance (forthcoming)