PA Scores A- For Government Transparency

Happy sunIt might be easy to look at Pennsylvania’s large population of incarcerated former elected officials and conclude that the state has a transparency problem.

But as far as state-level transparency goes, Pa. isn’t half bad. In fact, we’re an A- according to the 2013 Transparency Report Card from the Sunshine Review, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing government accountability.

The Keystone State fared well in this year’s report, tying five other states–California, Illinois, Maryland, Texas, and Washington–for the highest overall transparency grade, a B+. Factors contributing to this grade included state-level transparency (A-), county-level transparency (B-) city-level transparency (B+), and school district transparency (B).

Pennsylvania’s state-level success has been linked to its state website, PennWATCH. Launched in 2012, the website provides a one stop shop for Pa. residents, granting public access to state budgets, spending details, revenue reports, and public employee salaries.

Both PennWATCH and a strong Sunshine Review report indicate a marked improvement for Pennsylvania. Barry Kauffman, executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania, told the PA Independent that Pa. had some of the worst transparency laws in the country before 2006. That’s when public outrage over the midnight pay raise and bonusgate forced lawmakers to clean up their act.

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