CINCINNATI (TDB) -- A report that examines the quantity and quality of online information made available by state governments across the U.S. grades Ohio with a "C," or solidly average. The study was released today by Good Jobs First, a Washington non-profit that reviewed Internet disclosure practices in all 50 states. Ohio received an "A-minus" for giving the public Web access to state procurement contracts. But the grade fell to D-plus for disclosure about economic development subsidies for business, and D-plus for state lobbyist and lobbying activities.
Neighboring states had these overall grades: Indiana, B; Pennsylvania, C; Kentucky, F; Michigan, F, and West Virginia, F. The overall grade for all 50 states was a D-minus.
The subsidies have sometimes been called corporate welfare. They include loans, grants and tax breaks and other financial assistance to businesses. Good Jobs said there is wide agreement across the political spectrum that states should be more transparent. It said the National Taxpayers Union, along with consumer advocate Ralph Nader, have been allies in promoting "Google Government." Records would go online showing companies that receive tax breaks and financial assistance from government. The argument is that the public should be able to take advantage of the increased degree of openness that the Web can allow.
Good Jobs First said its goal was to show which states are moving to make full use of the Internet to disseminate information.
"State government's are critical arenas for the public's right to know, in part because they are a major force in the country's political economy. They employ about five million people and spend some $1.5 trillion a year. They play a major role in regulating business and protecting the public, and they are often in the vanguard of public policy innovation. Making those activities more transparent is a vital public benefit."
Lobbying records should be online and easy to decipher, the group said, so the public can see "which companies are spending money to exert influence over state policy making."