Minnesota’s Stimulus Funding Map, Phase Two By David Arbeit and Jim Krumrie, MnGeo
An important aspect of the Federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was its commitment to transparency, overseen by the Recovery Accountability and Transparency
Board. As the state’s chief financial reporting agency, Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) was required to compile and disseminate detailed information about stimulus spending by state agency administered programs. Visualization of data through maps was strongly encouraged by the RATB. MMB turned to the Minnesota Geospatial Information Office (MnGeo) to help it fulfill this requirement through an interactive web mapping application that is credited with launching Minnesota from near the bottom of state rankings for informing the public about ARRA funding to one of the nation’s leaders.
The application, linked to Minnesota’s recovery site, Recovery.MN, allows users to view spending amounts by county for seven different categories – Health and Human Services, Education, Transportation, Energy/Environment, Housing, Economic Development, and Public Safety – and then “drill down” to specific projects within each county. Each project is located on the map by a colored push pin that activates a window with project details.
How is the Map Created?
MnGeo created the site using the StateStat web application built by ESRI specifically for displaying a state’s stimulus funding priorities. It runs on ArcGIS Server using the Adobe Flex web mapping API (Application Programming Interface). Statestat consumes stimulus project data created from approximately 70 specifically-formatted Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. The spreadsheets are filled manually from Microsoft Access SQL queries that operate on data originally received from MMB. Then latitude/longitude point coordinates were added for the various project locations (e.g., city centroids, county seats, school district main offices) using ArcMap.
Phase Two Improvements
MnGeo already is working with MMB to improve the site. In Phase Two, MnGeo will add crosstab tables that display spending data per legislative district along with choropleth maps showing data reported by school district and DEED Workforce Service Area. Also, the current manual method of loading data will be replaced with a more efficient automated process. MnGeo will continue to update the web maps and tables each quarter as it receives new data from MMB.
National Ranking Improves!
According to a recent study by Good Jobs First, Minnesota’s website now ranks fourth in the nation in helping taxpayers understand and evaluate the role of the Recovery Act in job creation and state fiscal relief. The study examines the quality and quantity of disclosure by official state websites on the many different ways more than $200 billion in ARRA funding is flowing through state governments to communities, organizations and individuals. It looks at the availability of information on spending programs as well as specific grants and contracts, with emphasis on data relating to jobs and the geographic distribution of spending within states. Using seven evaluation criteria, each state is graded on a scale of 0 to 100. Minnesota is now tied for fourth place – up from a tie with twelve other states for 34 – higher than only five other states.
Beyond Stimulus Mapping
Successfully demonstrating how mapping enhances understanding of state investments has opened the door for other applications. Legislative leaders and staff in both the Senate and House served on an advisory committee to MMB during the project’s design and implementation and have been enthusiastic about the result. During hearings early in the legislative session, several legislators have suggested extending the approach to other areas of the budget and have asked MnGeo for advice. The most likely candidate for extending the stimulus mapping approach is the capital budget, which is also being explored in several other states. Longer term, this initial foray into applying GIS to strategically important issues has set the stage for broadened legislative interest in collaboratively implemented geospatial solutions. Stay tuned!