This year a national consumer group gave Vermont an A- for its effort to improve online "checkbook" level information about the state's finances. The nonprofit group has released an annual report card on financial transparency for each state since 2010. Eight states, including Vermont, were given an A- this year.
Four years ago, Vermont got an "F" for financial transparency from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. The state launched http://spotlight.vermont.gov in 2012 to improve citizen access to information about the state's budget, auditor's reports, monthly revenue reports, grants and tax breaks for companies. The site also includes a searchable database of expenditures, vendors and employee salaries.
Paul Burns, executive director of VPIRG, said no other state - including states with much greater resources - got a better score.
"We need to be able to scrutinize agencies in the same way we scrutinize our own checkbooks," Burns said at the governor's press conference on Wednesday. "Checkbook level transparency is the standard."
Gov. Peter Shumlin touted the good news: "I'm incredibly proud of my team which has turned the corner for transparency. We're letting hardworking taxpayers know how we're spending their money in the state of Vermont."
Sue Zeller, the state's new chief performance officer, has led the spotlight.vermont.gov project. Zeller says the website is updated as soon as new reports are available. Charts for state revenues, for example, are posted the same day.