2017 Semifinalist
State of Texas
January 1, 2017

The biennial state of Texas budget for 2016 and 2017 totals more than $209 billion, a massive sum that provides vital services for nearly 27 million Texans. Given the state’s size and the magnitude of the challenges facing it, transparency is critical to building confidence in government. Prior to the Comptroller’s Texas Transparency initiative, various state agencies provided web access to fragments of fiscal information but the state had no centralized, user-friendly website providing comprehensive data on public finances. In January 2007, the Comptroller’s office began by publishing simple web pages featuring agency expenses. By October of that year, the agency had published its award-winning “Where the Money Goes” site, which featured a searchable check register for state expenditures. In November 2008, the agency launched its “Texas Transparency Check-Up” site for Texas local governments, and in December 2009 launched the Leadership Circle, a program recognizing local government transparency. From its inception through 2015, the program granted 1,878 Circle awards to local governments that provide the public with easy access to their financial documents. In May 2010, the agency launched an expanded Texas Transparency site that included “Where the Money Comes From,” a visual tool depicting revenue trends, and the Data Center, a central repository for downloadable datasets. New visual tool features, including spending by agency and category of expenditure, were added in 2013. Since then, the agency has continued to build and enhance the site’s features, as with the recent addition of a dashboard on economic development spending by fund, “Explore Economic Development Funds.” Texas Transparency continues to evolve in response to increasing public demand for open and accountable government, particularly in the areas of debt and local finance. In 2016, the aforementioned Leadership Circle program was re-vamped to provide even greater transparency among local governments when the Comptroller introduced the Transparency Stars program, which awards Stars to entities that go beyond just providing basic financial documents on their websites.