Maryland Improves Slightly in Government Spending Transparency

An April 8 article reported that Maryland’s ranking improved slightly in the fifth  annual government spending transparency report card released by the Maryland Public Interest Research Group Foundation (Maryland PIRG) but still ranks in the middle when compared with other states.  The article noted that Maryland moved from a “C” grade in last year’s survey to a “B-” this year.  From the article:

“Maryland has become more transparent about where public money goes, providing citizens with the information they need to hold elected officials and recipients of public subsidies accountable,” said Emily Scarr, Maryland PIRG Foundation Director. “Unfortunately, we’re still in the middle of the pack as far as state spending transparency, not leading the way as we should be.”

The article also discussed legislation passed by the Maryland General Assembly that will establish a Council on Open Data to further improve the availability of State data online.

The new Council on Open Data was created by SB 644 sponsored by Sen. Bill Ferguson, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Transparency and Open Government, which budget language states will now be combined with another committee on the state’s information technology.  …

The law says:

“It is the policy of the state that open data be machine readable and released to the public in ways that make the data easy to find, accessible, and usable, including through the use of open data portals.”

This is “a step to make Maryland a more friendly and open state,” Ferguson told his colleagues on the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.

From April 8 Carroll County Times coverage:

The state has provided more information online concerning the benefits of some tax credits, such as film tax credits and job creation tax credits, among others, which explains Maryland’s higher grade this year.

However, Maryland does not match up to other states in terms of having a keyword search for state spending or providing information on state subsidies.  …

“I would say that in general Maryland is doing pretty well, but certainly could improve,” said Emily Scarr, director of the Maryland Public Interest Research Group, which worked with the U.S. PIRG on the report. “The two places that we should be improving are making tax spending more searchable for our tax payers and [providing] more information on government subsidy outcomes.”

Maryland PIRG April 8 Press Release

The following table summarizes the rankings of all 50 states, with Indiana, Oregon, and Florida scoring the best and Idaho, Alaska, and California scoring the worst.

Table ES-1: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data