Shumlin touts transparency gains
By DAVE GRAM
The Associated Press | April 12,2014
MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin said this week he didn’t get many top grades in school, so he was glad to receive an “A” from a national group grading states on government transparency.
Shumlin, a Democrat, then had to correct himself, learning during his news conference Wednesday that Vermont actually had received an “A-minus” from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group for online reporting of its financial data. That was up from an “F” in 2010, the year before Shumlin took office. Vermont tied seven other states for the best grade; none got an “A.”
Shumlin praised the work of the state Agency of Administration and the Department of Finance and Management in making the improvements.
“We’ve made great strides over the past few years to increase transparency, and I’m thankful for their efforts,” the governor said.
But Shumlin also made clear that he believes transparency has its limits. He said he would not release a full weekly schedule of his activities, including whom he has met during his travels as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association. His office makes public a weekly schedule that lists public events in Vermont and broad information about what city he’s traveling to and for how long during his out-of-state travels.
And Shumlin defended his administration’s recent denial of a lawmaker’s public records request for documents connected with the development of Green Mountain Care, the universal, publicly funded health care system expected to launch in 2017. A 2011 law setting a path to universal health care called for the administration to release a proposed financing plan by January 2013. Fifteen months later, it has yet to do so.
Shumlin said he would not make public any documents related to development of the financing plan until a completed proposal is ready for public release.
“It’s hard to be transparent about things that you’re not ready to do because you haven’t figured it out,” he said.
The U.S. Public Interest Research Group report praised Vermont for development of the website www.spotlight.vermont.gov. The site contains budget documents, information on state contracts and grants, and a range of other financial data.
Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, praised the state for its efforts.
“Gov. Shumlin and his team have made a real commitment to improving public access to information about government spending,” he said.