The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) doesn't think much of Idaho's online spending transparency offerings.
In a report issued Wednesday morning, PIRG ranks Idaho at the bottom of all 50 states in online state transparency. The group ranked states on their online fiscal databases and other websites lending themselves to shedding light on financial affairs. The grades also consider how easy it is for users to access data in a one-stop-shop experience.
Idaho earned six out of 100 possible points, the lowest point total of all the states. Montana is barely ahead of the Gem State, garnering seven points in the report. Arkansas rounds out the bottom three with eight points.
PIRG called the data that Idaho does offer online "superficial."
At the other end of the spectrum, Texas leads with 98 points. Kentucky received 96 and Indiana follows closely behind with 93.
In the West, Idaho and Montana aren't alone in their poor ranking. Neighbor Wyoming also received a failing mark from PIRG. But, other Idaho border states, Washington and Oregon, won "A" grades from the group. Washington was praised for postings its state checkbook online and developing a data system to remove any health-related data considered private.
Part of the reason for the low grade is the reality that Idaho has yet to post its checkbook online. The four worst-performing states are chided in the report for not making that data easily available to the public. Kevin Richert of the Idaho Statesman notes that Controller Donna Jones has pushed for that, but lawmakers backed away after seeing the $250,000 price tag.
The price for putting the information on the Internet varies wildly across the country. Some states, like Delaware, Florida and Georgia, used existing funds and staffers to make the data available. Others required specific appropriations. Wyoming spent the least on its own transparency website, appropriating $1,600 for the expense. Mississippi, on the other hand, paid $2.2 million for its digital offering.
Idaho has made some effort in adding transparency to government in the past few years. Two years ago, lawmakers passed legislation requiring school districts to post their expenses online. School officials across the state reported mixed results, some complaining the law is too burdensome and others saying the task wasn't a big ordeal.