Evaluation of Wisconsin state website

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Wisconsin.gov is the website for the state of Wisconsin.

Website evaluation

Usability P
Lobbying P
Public records
Compensation N
600px-Red x.png
State agency websitesGuide.png
Transparency grading process

In 2011 Wisconsin earned a Sunny Awards for having a perfect website transparency score.

This website was reviewed on March 12, 2013.

The good

  • Budget (6/10 pts)
    • Biennial budgets are available from 2001.[1]
    • Expenditure breakdown for current year in graph form.[2]
    • Receipts and disbursements are posted (check book register).[3]
    • Expenditure reports are posted and are available in graph form. [4]
    • Tax information is available.[5]
  • Usability (2/10 pts)
    • The site has a search function.
    • Website is confusing, big items like "budget" are not readily accessible.
  • Executive (5/10 pts)
    • Administrative and elected officials' contact information is provided.[6]
  • Legislative (5/10 pts)
    • Voting records are available in a searchable format. [7]
    • E-mail directory for legislators is posted.[8] [9]
    • Committee assignments are listed. Party affiliations are public. [10] [11]
  • Ethics (10/10 pts)
    • Ethics information is available.[12]
    • Information on filing a complaint is posted.[13]
    • Some complaint and investigation information is posted, other information is private. Confidentiality of complaint process is explained.[13]
  • Audits (6/10 pts)
    • Audits are posted for multiple years.[14]
  • Contracts (8/10 pts)
    • State contracts are posted.[15]
  • Lobbying (4/10 pts)
    • Lobbying information is posted.[16]
  • Public records (10/10 pts)
    • Information, instructions, and a sample letter are provided for making public records requests.[17]
  • Compensation (0/10 pts)

The bad

U.S. PIRG rating

The U.S. PIRG rated the state website a "D-" on providing online access to government spending data, with a score of 50 out of 100.[18]

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.[19]

Wisconsin received an overall grade of C-, or 70%. It ranked 22 out of the 50 states.[20]

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

Transparency Legislation


Resource Run by Includes Year URL
Economic Recovery Portal State Tracks federal stimulus spending 2011 http://www.recovery.wv.gov/Pages/default.aspx
Official Acts of the Governor of West Virginia and Other Records State Executive Records 2011 http://www.sos.wv.gov/public-services/execrecords/Pages/default.aspx
State Budget Office State Cash flow, revenue, appropriations, federal reports, and budget information 2011 http://www.budget.wv.gov/Pages/default.aspx
Ethics Commission State Open Meetings Act and lobbyist disclosure. 2011 http://www.ethics.wv.gov/Pages/default.aspx
Follow the Money National Institute on Money in Politics Campaign contributions 2010 http://www.followthemoney.org/database/state_overview.phtml?y=2010&s=WI


State and Local Employees

According to 2008 Census data, the state of Wisconsin and local governments in the state employed a total of 379,539 people.[21] Of those employees, 240,747 were full-time employees receiving a net pay of $998,312,248 per month and 138,792 were part-time employees paid $123,619,591 per month.[21] More than 57% of those employees, or 218,585 employees, were in education or higher education.[21]

State Employee Benefits

Wisconsin describes its employees' fringe benefits as "significant."[22]


The state provides nine legal holidays with pay[22]:

  • New Year's Day
  • Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Eve Day
  • Christmas Day


Vacation is earned by full-time employees at the following rate[22]:

Years of Service Annual Vacation Hours - Non-Exempt Annual Vacation Hours - Exempt
During first 5 104 120
5+ to 10 144 160
10+ to 15 160 176
15+ to 20 184 200
20+ to 25 200 216
25 and Over 216 216

Personal Days

Employees are granted 4-1/2 days of personal holiday time.[22]

Sick leave

Full time state employees earn 5 hours of sick leave each bi-weekly pay period. Unused sick leave accumulates from year to year. The State matches a certain amount of the unused sick leave upon an employee's retirement, and the entire balance is converted at the employee's current hourly rate to pay health insurance premiums.[22]



A variety of Health Maintenance Organizations, Preferred Provider Plans, and fee-for-service health providers offer coverage.[22] Some dental coverage is included in many of the group health insurance plans and the catastrophic insurance plan.[22]

State employees pay an average of 6% of their health care premiums.[23]


An employee may have group term life insurance coverage in an amount up to 5 times his/her annual salary. The State contributes approximately 49% of the premium toward 2 of the 5 levels of coverage; however, the premiums for the remaining 3 levels of coverage are paid totally by the employee. Employees may also secure coverage for their spouse (up to $20,000) and dependents (up to $10,000) each.[22]

Long-Term Care Insurance

Employees have the option of adding long-term care insurance to cover short-term and long-term home health care, assisted living, community-based care, and nursing home care. The plan is available only to State employees and annuitants, including their spouse, parents, and spouse's parents. Employees pay the full premium.[22]

Other Benefits

  • The Employee Reimbursement Accounts Program allows employees to pay eligible medical and dependent care expenses from pre-tax rather than post-tax income. In addition, premiums for State group health, catastrophic, and life insurance (excluding spouse and dependent life insurance coverage) may be treated as pre-tax deductions.[22]
  • The Commuter Benefits Program allows employees to save money on their commuting costs by using pre-tax dollars to pay for bus passes, parking expenses, and other mass transit costs.


Wisconsin state employees are covered immediately under the Wisconsin Retirement System, which is the 9th largest public pension fund in the US and the 28th largest public or private pension fund in the world.[24]

Plan Current Value Percentage funded Unfunded liabilities Total state employees Avg. pension
Wisconsin Retirement System $79 billion 80 percent $2.2 billion 267,293 active members $24,448

Contribution Rates

Most employees contribute approximately 5% of their earnings.[22] The State pays another 5-10%, depending upon the employee's occupational status, toward the non-vested employer-required contribution.[22]

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,[25] the American Enterprise Institute[26] and Professors Robert Novy-Marx of the University of Chicago and Joshua Rauh of Northwestern University, Kellogg Graduate School of Management.[27]

In Thousands
PEW (2008) AEI (2008) Kellogg (2009)
$252,600 $62,691,675 $56,200,000

Public Records

The Open Records Law is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of government bodies at all levels in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Open Meetings Law sets out which meetings of which government bodies must be open to the public, the type and timing of public notice about the meetings and the requirements for public participation.

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

External links


  1. Wisconsin.gov "Budget," Accessed January 26, 2012
  2. YTD State Expenditures Total February, Fiscal Year 2013
  3. Monthly Receipts and Disbursements
  4. [1]
  5. Wisconsin.gov "Department of Revenue," Accessed January 26, 2012
  6. Wisconsin.gov "Government," Accessed January 26, 2012
  7. [2]
  8. Senate Directory
  9. Assembly Directory
  10. State Senators
  11. Wisconsin State Representatives
  12. Wisconsin.gov "Government Accountability," Accessed January 26, 2012
  13. 13.0 13.1 Complaints
  14. Wisconsin.gov "CAFRs," Accessed January 26, 2012
  15. Wisconsin.gov "Procurement Contracts," Accessed January 26, 2012
  16. Wisconsin.gov "Lobbying," Accessed January 26, 2012
  17. Wisconsin.gov "FOIA," Accessed January 26, 2012
  18. US PIRG, Following the Money: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data, March 14, 2012
  19. "50 states and no winners," State Integrity Investigation, StateIntegrity.org
  20. Wisconsin Corruption Risk Report Card, State Integrity Investigation, StateIntegrity.org
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 2008 Wisconsin Public Employment U.S. Census Data
  22. 22.00 22.01 22.02 22.03 22.04 22.05 22.06 22.07 22.08 22.09 22.10 22.11 Benefits
  23. The New York Times "States Aim Ax at Health Cost of Retirement" Feb. 13, 2011
  24. State of Wisconsin Investment Board
  25. "State Pensions and Retiree Healthcare Benefits: The Trillion Dollar Gap,” Pew Center on the States, accessed January 4, 2011
  26. Biggs, Andrew, “The Market Value of Public-Sector Pension Deficits,” AEI Outlook Series, no. 1 (2010)
  27. Novy-Marx, Robert and Joshua Rauh, 2010, "Public Pension Promises: How Big Are They and What Are They Worth," Journal of Finance (forthcoming)