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, Democracy, Tax

Loopholes for Sale

A new report 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

Ryan Budget a Windfall for Special Interests, Devastating to Public Priorities

While U.S. PIRG recognizes the need to address the nation’s deficit, Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget plan proposes a windfall for corporate tax dodgers, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies, and the oil industry while slapping the public with harmful cuts to public priorities like Pell Grants and public transportation.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget

Report Card Ranks 50 States on Transparency of Spending

In Following the Money 2012: How the States Rank on Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data, researchers at the United States Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) graded all 50 states on how well they provide online access to information about government spending. States were given “A” to “F” grades based on the characteristics of the online transparency systems they have created to provide information on contracts, subsidies and spending at quasi-public agencies.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Budget

Following the Money 2012

This report is U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s third annual ranking of states’ progress toward “Transparency 2.0” – a new standard of comprehensive, one-stop, one-click budget accountability and accessibility. The past year has seen continued progress, with new states providing online access to government spending information and several states pioneering new tools to further expand citizens’ access to spending information and engagement with government.

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News Release | Budget

WISPIRG Report: Taxpayer Protections at Risk

As the Wisconsin state senate and assembly consider bills removing the requirement for cost benefit analyses for all WISDOT projects over $25,000, a new WISPIRG report finds that numerous government ventures in privatizing or outsourcing public work have ended up being a bad deal for taxpayers and costing more in the long run.

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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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