Government Transparency

U.S. PIRG believes that budgeting should be open, accountable, and follow long-term planning. Public money should be spent for the most effective pursuit of clear public benefits or to encourage beneficial behaviors undervalued by the market. 

Through Transparency, Shaping A Government Accountable to the People

How government collects and spends money is critically important. Tax and budget decisions are the most concrete way that communities declare priorities and balance competing values.

Unfortunately, government decisions about how to raise revenue and support public functions often fail to best advance the public interest. Too often, public subsidies, tax breaks or special deals are granted to powerful corporate interests at the taxpayers’ expense. When this happens, taxpayers are stuck with the tab, or public resources and services end up threatened.

It is not possible to ensure that government decisions are fair and efficient unless information is publicly accessible. Likewise, public officials and private companies that receive contracts and subsidies must be held to task for their actions. 

Transparency in government spending checks corruption, promotes fiscal responsibility and allows for greater, more meaningful participation in our democratic system. U.S. PIRG is working to advance these goals on a variety of fronts: 

  • Promoting public access to online information about government spending at a detailed "checkbook" level including contracts, subsidies and "off-budget" agencies.
     
  • Ensuring that companies that receive public subsidies are held accountable for delivering clear benefits or required to return public dollars.
     
  • Protecting against bad privatization deals that sell off public assets on the cheap and diminish public control of vital public structures such as toll roads, parking systems and traffic enforcement.

Issue updates

Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group | Budget, Tax

Following the Money 2016

State governments spend hundreds of billions of dollars each year through contracts for goods and services, subsidies to encourage economic development, and other expenditures. Public accountability helps ensure that state funds are spent as wisely as possible.

State-operated spending transparency websites provide checkbook-level detail on government spending, allowing citizens and watchdog groups to view payments made to individual companies, the goods or services purchased, and the benefits obtained in exchange for public subsidies.

 

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News Release | Budget

U.S. PIRG Statement on State of the Union Address

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama came before Congress to give his seventh and final State of the Union address. In his speech, the President highlighted top national priorities and some of the greatest challenges faced by the American people.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget

U.S. PIRG statement on 100+ Ohio Localities Disclosing Spending Data on State’s Transparency Website

Statement by Phineas Baxandall, Senior Policy Analyst at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group on the announcement that 100 Ohio local governments have posted online data about their spending though a web portal provided by the Ohio Treasurer’s Office.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget, Tax

Concrete, Fair Reforms Submitted to Senate Finance Committee Working Groups

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group today submitted comments to the Senate Finance Committee’s Business Income Tax and International Tax Working Groups, urging lawmakers to close corporate tax loopholes that allow multinational corporations to avoid U.S. tax. 

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News Release | U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund | Budget

New Report Ranks All Fifty States on Government Spending Transparency

Government spending transparency is improving, but many states still lag far behind, according to “Following the Money 2015: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data,” the sixth annual report of its kind by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund. Some states have improved their spending transparency web portals significantly, and even introduced entirely new state-of-the-art transparency sites with innovative features, while others are still barely achieving the minimum standards.

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News Release | US PIRG | Budget

U.S.PIRG advises for stronger standards to track state and local economic subsidies

The Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) called for public comment on proposed rules for reporting on tax abatements that could require states and localities to achieve new levels of checkbook level transparency around economic development programs. Across the U.S. these programs represent tens of billions of dollars in subsidies, often granted with little transparency or accountability for results. In our comment letter to GASB, US PIRG made a few suggestions for amendments that would further strengthen the proposed GASB standards.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget, Tax, Transportation

Obama Budget Closes Tax Loopholes, Cuts Wasteful Spending, but Falls Short of Ending Offshore Tax Dodging

"President Obama’s budget deserves praise for closing egregious offshore tax loopholes and preventing companies with enough lawyers from using tax havens to get their tax bill down to zero. Unfortunately it fails to end the incentive for wealthy multinationals to take advantage of tax havens, and would fall short of putting an end to offshore tax dodging.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget

Statement on the President's State of the Union Address

The State of the Union address is the President's opportunity to articulate his priorities.  In a time of divided government, action on many of the President's priorities will require an agreement with Congress.  However, it is notable the range of issues raised by the President where he and his Administration can take action independent of Congress. We list our U.S. PIRG position on key highlights:

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Budget

Toward Common Ground: Bridging the Political Divide with Deficit Reduction Recommendations for Congress

To break through the ideological divide that has dominated Washington in recent years and offer a pathway to address the nation’s fiscal problems, National Taxpayers Union and U.S. PIRG joined together to identify mutually acceptable deficit reduction measures. This report documents our recommendations.

What follows is a general summary of recommendations that fall into four categories:

- $151.6 billion in savings from ending wasteful subsidies;

- $197.2 billion from addressing outdated or ineffective military programs;

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Budget, Tax

Picking Up the Tab 2013

Tax haven abuse costs the United States approximately $150 billion in tax revenues every year. Even when tax haven abusers act perfectly legally, they force other Americans to shoulder their tax burden. The average U.S. tax filer would need to pay $1,026 in additional taxes to make up for lost revenue from tax havens. To pick up the tab for the taxes avoided by multinational corporations, the average small business in the United States would need to pay an average of $3,067 each in additional taxes.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Budget, Tax

Following the Money 2013

Every year, state governments spend tens of billions of dollars through contracts with private entities for goods and services, subsidies to encourage economic development, grants, and other forms of spending. Accountability and public scrutiny are necessary to ensure that state funds are well spent.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Budget, Tax

The Hidden Cost of Offshore Tax Havens

In 2011, states lost approximately $39.8 billion in tax revenues from corporations and wealthy individuals who sheltered money in foreign tax havens. Multinational corporations account for more than $26 billion of the lost tax revenue, and wealthy individuals account for the rest.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Budget, Tax

Transparency in City Spending

The ability to see how government uses the public purse is fundamental to democracy. Transparency in government spending checks corruption, bolsters public confidence, improves responsiveness, and promotes greater effectiveness and fiscal responsibility.

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