Making Government More Transparent

Madison, WI – The state budget that will go before the state Assembly and Senate this week includes provisions that will give Wisconsin taxpayers easily accessible information about state expenditures on a centralized website.  The current version of the budget requires the state to provide taxpayers with easily searchable, checkbook-level detail of state expenditures and detailed information about all state contracts. 

“WISPIRG applauds state leaders for enhancing and improving online budget transparency.  These steps will promote fiscal responsibility, save money, and move us one step closer to our once proud tradition of open government.  Taxpayers deserve nothing less,” said Bruce Speight, WISPIRG Director. 

In October 2010, WISPIRG released a new report, Wisconsin Spending Transparency 2.0, which found that Wisconsin did a poor job of providing taxpayers detailed online information about state spending.  With most states providing taxpayers online, checkbook-level detail, the report provided best practices from other states and recommendations for how Wisconsin could become a leader in online transparency.  In March, WISPIRG released its second annual Following the Money report, which compares and grades all 50 states on their spending transparency.  Wisconsin received a D+, and remained in the bottom half of all states for transparency. 

“State leaders are getting budget transparency back on track,” continued Speight. 

However, the state budget lacks transparency and accountability provisions recommended by WISPIRG for economic development subsidies.  With the creation of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, WISPIRG urged Governor Walker and state leaders to provide taxpayers more detailed information on subsidies that are administered by the WEDC and to include recapture provisions, which would require companies to return subsidies if they don't deliver on their promises or fulfill the purpose of the subsidy. 

“State leaders deserve praise for enhancing transparency in the budget, but we still have work to do to make Wisconsin government transparent and accountable.  We should not give companies taxpayer money without accountability.  Taxpayers deserve a money-back guarantee for all economic development subsidies, or else we risk wasting tax dollars and taking advantage of taxpayers,” concluded Speight.

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