State rolls out OpenBook Wisconsin

Website proposed by Gov. in 2011 state budget
State rolls out OpenBook Wisconsin

State rolls out OpenBook Wisconsin

Nearly three years after it was originally proposed, a website detailing how state taxpayer dollars are spent has been launched.

The Department of Administration rolled out OpenBook Wisconsin Thursday in a news conference with reporters. The site was an initiative proposed by Gov. Scott Walker in the 2011 state budget.

“His underlying theme has always been that this is the taxpayers’ money and we should provide them an easy way to see how it is spent,” DOA Deputy Secretary Chris Schoenherr said.

The website holds more than 25 million transactions made by the state since mid-2007, and can be searched by agency, category or vendor. The purchases are shown at a “checkbook” level, meaning you will see how much was spent and where.

But there is some information not on the site, including entire state contracts, lists of awarded grants, salary and fringe benefit information of state employees and a general level of detail or context that can explain what the expenses were made for and why.

One example shown by Schoenherr Thursday was a $10,000 purchase at a country salon. It was not an expensive haircut, but rather a real estate transaction with the Department of Transportation.

To find that out, users can click the “ask a question” button to get more detail.

“Things that may look outrageous on the front end may have a very logical explanation on the back end,” Schoenherr said. “And there may be other things that don’t, and that’s why we have OpenBook in place because it will uncover and understand the expenditures of the state.”

The site took more than two years of development, multiple delays in launching and still doesn’t have all the data expected. But the state says it was ready enough to roll out now.

“There comes a point in time where the perfect becomes the enemy of the good,” Schoenherr said. “And realizing what we had and the data we had, we thought we had enough stuff here to do the soft launch.”

The state says the site cost $160,000 to develop, although that does not include the employee work time spent on it during the last two years.