TribBlog: Where's the Stimulus?

Texas ranks poorly among the states when it comes to letting taxpayers know how it's using federal stimulus dollars, according to a report released today by several nonprofit public interest groups.

Texas ranks poorly among the states when it comes to letting taxpayers know how it's using federal stimulus dollars, according to a report released today by several nonprofit public interest groups.

The report, called "Show Us the Stimulus: An Evaluation of State Government Recovery Act Websites," ranked Texas at a tie for number 42 out of 50 states for the transparency of its stimulus spending Web site. While some states are making progress in publishing how and where their stimulus dollars are being spent, Texas is not doing so hot, according to research done by Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG), Texas Impact, Public Citizen and produced by Good Jobs First, a non-profit research center based in Washington, D.C.

The groups reviewed the quantity and quality of information on the Texas Comptroller's Web site. They considered the availability of information on grants, spending programs and contracts, looking for data on how many jobs were created and where the dollars were distributed geographically. States were scored on a scale of 0 to 100. Texas scored 18. Only six states scored worse. The top score, 87, went to Maryland.

"What the report doesn't account for is that Texas's government is decentralized," says a spokesman for the Comptroller's office. "The information is there, but you're going to have to do a little work to find it. There's no centralized portal."  In other words, someone who wants to know about stimulus money being spent on transportation would have to go directly to the Texas Department of Transportation for that information.

"There’s no reason that every state shouldn’t achieve a perfect score. Unfortunately, Texas is way behind,” said Melissa Cubria, TexPIRG spokeswoman. She said Texas does get some things right, including making its Web site aesthetically pleasing and providing summary information about spending programs. But, she said, Texas can and should do better.

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