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TN Gets ‘D Minus’ for Online Access to Gov’t Spending

by Andrea Zelinski on March 14, 2012

Tennessee ranks among the worst states in the nation for sharing state spending documents online, but slightly redeems itself by offering up salary info about its highest-paid workers, according to a recent study.

The Volunteer State’s “D minus” for providing online access to government spending data is the lowest among all but one of its neighboring states, totalling 51 of a possible 100 points, according to the Following the Money 2012 report from the U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups. Tennessee tied with Vermont to come out ahead of only 10 states in the rankings.

But Tennessee leads the pack in providing salary information for state employees online, including a searchable database where users can sort incomes by agency or focus in on individual agency heads.

The governor’s office says there’s always room for improvement.

“The administration has been looking at possible upgrades to our transparency site both from a content standpoint and an IT/functionality standpoint, but that takes time if we’re going to get it right,” Gov. Bill Haslam’s spokesman Dave Smith said in an emailed response.

The study examined the state’s open government web page, assigning it a 0 out of 10 on all these measures:

  • Ability to search online for expenditures by contractor or vendor name
  • Ability to search expenditures by type of service or item purchased either using a keyword search or selecting from a list of categories
  • Providing information on tax expenditures
  • Posting specific information or copies of state contracts.

Tennessee got 4 out of 10 points for providing information about economic development expenditures and grants.

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