Government Transparency Done Right
On Friday, the state of Missouri surprised me. I’m used to long waits, unreturned phone calls, and copying fees whenever I ask a local or state official for public records. So, when I called the folks at the Missouri Accountability Portal (MAP), a state government website devoted to making state spending and revenues transparent, I expected the same. Even though, you know, the point of MAP is easy and quick access to information.
While MAP had readily searchable tables of employee salaries, state spending, tax revenues, and tax credits, the large databases behind those tables weren’t available for download as a whole; instead, they were exportable only in bite-sized tables. This made analyzing, say, state expenditures during the past decade impossible.
I left a voicemail; they left a voicemail. I left another voicemail. And then, on Friday, I was told that the web page was up.
That’s right, not only did the folks at MAP fulfill my request, but they thought they might as well fix this problem for everyone. Here’s the link: http://mapyourtaxes.mo.gov/MAP/Download/Default.aspx. On this page, you can download: state expenditures for the past decade, either by year or as a gigantic database; stimulus revenues and expenditures; a database of employee salaries for the past three years; and the amounts that the state has given away in tax credits during the past decade. Oh, and the spreadsheets for this year are updated each night — so you don’t get stale data.
I have never had such an experience of helpfulness and ease when requesting public information. I want to thank the folks at MAP for being so forthcoming and for working to make the website that much more useful for everyone.