Oregon praised for clearer stimulus disclosure

SALEM — Oregon has moved up in the rankings in a new national report that rates how well states use the Internet to show where their federal stimulus money is being spent.

The report by Good Jobs First, a nonprofit research center based in Washington, D.C., ranked Oregon ninth nationally — up from No. 23 in July.

The center rates the official Recovery Act Web sites of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The report updates a similar report released in July.

Oregon got high marks for providing an interactive map with significant details on projects. It was criticized for not comparing spending to areas of economic distress.

"We have worked very hard to create a Web site that provides the most up-to-date information to Oregonians about where these federal dollars are going," said Jillian Schoene, a spokeswoman in Gov. Ted Kulongoski's office, which is responsible for the site.

President Barack Obama pledged unprecedented transparency and accountability in carrying out the $787 billion federal stimulus plan.

But the Good Jobs First study found wide differences in the quantity and quality of information that state Web sites offer.

Based on 10 criteria, the center graded each state's stimulus spending Web site on a scale of zero to 100. Oregon received a score of 67, better than most, but officials say they already are looking for ways to improve, including a new committee to increase accountability and performance across state government.

"It's nice to show that when the government hears constructive criticism from the public, they make things better," said Jon Bartholomew, policy advocate for the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group, or OSPIRG.

Last year, Oregon lawmakers unanimously passed a bill requiring the state to create a central transparency Web site, where the public can go for information about revenue and spending. But it didn't provide any money for the project.

In December, the state launched a limited site containing basic information such as agency revenues but no information about how money is being spent.

This month, the Oregon Department of Administrative Services will add expenditure data, detailing how each agency is spending money.

"That's really going to give us a lot more interesting information," said Bartholomew, a member of the nine-member Transparency Advisory Commission created by the legislation.

More than $3.9 billion in federal stimulus funding has gone to Oregon.

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