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Texas, Kentucky Get Top Ratings on Spending Transparency

Kentucky and Texas provide the most comprehensive and accessible online data on their spending, while many other U.S. states are improving ways to help citizens understand trends in use of tax money, according to a new study.

Almost all states, 46, offer online details on how revenue is spent and who gets the money, up from 32 two years earlier, according to the U.S. PIRG Education Fund in Washington. Texas and Kentucky also topped the advocacy group’s 2011 rankings.

“I’m really struck by the states’ progress in this,” said Phineas Baxandall, a senior analyst who wrote the study with Ryan Pierannunzi. “Today, public information means online and accessible and states are taking it seriously.”

An exception is California, which got a D- grade after Governor Jerry Brown, 73, in November shut the state’s “Reporting Transparency in Government” website. Instead, inquiries for information are referred to sites run by multiple agencies.

“This is a little bit like saying that people ought to use the Internet without Google or other search engines,” Pedro Morillas, who works for U.S. PIRG’s California affiliate, said in the report.

Texas and Kentucky received A grades, while Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, West Virginia and Arizona were rated A-. Idaho, Montana, Arkansas and Iowa scored F grades for failing to enable website users to see how the state spends money. Wyoming also got an F because its state spending is only searchable by vendor name, according to the report.

The study found no partisan pattern indicating Democratic or Republican-leaning states are more likely to have transparent government, Baxandall said. Rankings were based on searchability of data and on the breadth of information provided.

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