In the news

PIRGIM
|
The Detroit News
By
Chad Livengood

A new report by a nonprofit civic engagement organization says Gov. Rick Snyder's administration improved the public's access to information on how state government is spending tax dollars during his first year in office.

The United States Public Interest Research Group gave Michigan a "B" grade in a report released Wednesday about online government transparency. The 83 out of 100 score was due, in part, to the state's online checkbook, which allows citizens to search for expenditures of more than $25,000 by vendor, keyword or agency, according to the report card.

Michigan was docked points for not providing a sufficient amount of information online summarizing expenses and historical expenditures, according to U.S. PIRG's report, "Following the Money 2012: How the States Rank on Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data."

Researchers cited the Michigan Economic Development Corporation's online interactive map that tracks where state tax incentives are being spent to create jobs and spur economic growth.

The report notes the data was difficult to obtain and analyze during former Gov. Jennifer Granholm's administration, when the state shelled out $3.5 billion in taxpayer subsidies for 508 companies.

"The mapping tool makes it easy to see where these projects are located around the state," the report states.

However, the report authors said there's room for improvement.

"In order to enable residents to assess the actual effectiveness of the incentives in growing the economy, the tool should be upgraded to disclose the number of actual jobs produced from particular projects," the report states.

U.S. PIRG also took note of the financial incentives Snyder has offered municipalities that become more transparent with how local tax dollars are spent.

Municipalities can apply for grants from the state's Economic Vitality Incentive Program if they create a "Citizen's Guide" to the local government with key financial data and an online dashboard with data on economic, fiscal, public safety and quality of life.

MEDC projects are available online athttp://www.michiganadvantage.org/projects.

The state's online checkbook can be searched athttp://apps.michigan.gov/mitransparency.

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