Transparent & Accountable Budgets

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 | Budget, Tax

What America Could Do With $150 Billion Lost to Offshore Tax Havens

Many corporations and wealthy individuals use offshore tax havens—countries with minimal or no taxes—to avoid paying $150 billion in U.S. taxes each year. By shielding their income from U.S. taxes, corporations and wealthy individuals shift the tax burden to ordinary Americans, who must pick up the tab in the form of cuts to public services, more debt, or higher taxes. The $150 billion lost annually to offshore tax havens is a lot of money, especially at a time of difficult budget choices. To put this sum in perspective, we present 16 potential ways that income could be used.

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

First Step to Avoid the Fiscal Cliff: Close Offshore Tax Loopholes

With Congress scrambling to agree on ways to reduce the deficit, U.S. PIRG released a new analysis pointing out a clear first step to avoid the “fiscal cliff”: closing offshore tax loopholes. Many of America’s largest corporations and wealthiest individuals use accounting gimmicks to shift profits made in America to offshore tax havens, where they pay little to no taxes. This tax avoidance costs the federal government an estimated $150 billion in tax revenue each year.  U.S. PIRG’s new data illustrates the size of this loss with 16 dramatic ways $150 billion could be spent.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget

Small Farmers and Citizens Speak Out Against Agricultural Subsidies in Farm Bill

Washington DC, Sep. 10 –Small farmers and ordinary citizens across the country are taking a stand against wasteful agricultural subsidies in the federal Farm Bill. With only a few weeks left before they adjourn for the election, reauthorizing or extending the Farm Bill is one of Congress’s top priorities.

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

Aggressive New Stance by Justice Department on BP Spill Offers Little-Known Benefit for Taxpayers

Statement of Ryan Pierannunzi, U.S. Public Interest Research Group Tax and Budget Associate, on the Department of Justice's August 31 court filing that charges BP with gross negligence for its role in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which may impact the tax-deductibility of a future settlement and protect the public from having to pick up the tab.

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

Release of New Report: Loopholes for Sale

A new report released Wednesday, March 21 by U.S. PIRG and Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ) found that thirty unusually aggressive tax dodging corporations have made campaign contributions to 524 (98 percent) sitting members of Congress, and disproportionately to the leadership of both parties and to key committee members. The report, Loopholes for Sale: Campaign Contributions by Corporate Tax Dodgers, examines campaign contributions made by a total of 280 profitable Fortune 500 companies in 2006, 2008, 2010 and to date in 2012.

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

Obama: Companies Shouldn’t Dodge Taxes

Statement of US PIRG Tax and Budget Associate Dan Smith on President Obama’s State of the Union Address.

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Media Hit | Budget

The Economist: You’re on film: The trouble with outsourcing traffic-law enforcement

Phineas Baxandall at the US Public Interest Research Group, a non-partisan advocacy, says the trend toward privatising the enforcement of traffic laws poses inherent conflicts of interest. Municipalities typically sign up because they are strapped for cash. When the contract involves revenue-sharing between the vendor and the municipality, there is an incentive to issue more tickets than necessary. But even flat-fee contracts can cause problems, if the system is implicitly tuned to recoup that fee by, in effect, setting a quota of tickets to be issued.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget

Supercommittee Squanders Opportunity to Cut Waste

Following months of partisan bickering, the Supercommittee has squandered a major opportunity to cut truly wasteful spending and special interest handouts.

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Media Hit | Budget

Consumer Affairs: Study Finds Problems with Red-Light, Speed Cameras

“Too many cities wrongly sign away power to ensure the safety of citizens on the roads when they privatize traffic law enforcement. Automated traffic ticketing tends to be governed by contracts that focus more on profits than safety.” said Phineas Baxandall Ph.D., the Senior Analyst for Tax and Budget Policy at the Public Interest Research Group and a co-author of the report.

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Media Hit | Budget

USA Today: Red-light Traffic Camera Deals Under Scrutiny

Local governments hungry for revenue are signing contracts with red-light camera companies that put profit over traffic safety, according to a new study by a national public interest advocacy group.

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