If there is one thing most Americans can agree on, it is that the quality of their government is bad and getting worse — except maybe it isn’t, at least at the state level. Statehouses have acted decisively on budgetary discipline while Washington dithers, shrinking aggregate deficits from $191 billion in the 2010 fiscal year to a projected $47 billion for FY 2013, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

States are also in the midst of a governance and transparency revolution. That is the upshot of an annual survey on online access to public spending released last week by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG). All but four of the 50 statehouses now offer easily navigable web sites where concerned citizens can monitor outlays down to the ‘check-book level,’ up from 32 in 2010, the D.C.-based watchdog found. “We were impressed to see the progress over the past few years,” says Phineas Baxandall, the USPIRG analyst who ran the project.

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