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

Media Hit | Budget, Tax

JPMorgan Settlement Truth in Advertising Sought on Taxes

An aspect of U.S. tax law is being criticized by some lawmakers and consumer groups concerned that it may be worth billions of dollars for JPMorgan Chase & Co in negotiations with the Department of Justice.

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Media Hit | Budget, Tax

Government must shut down corporate tax havens

American citizens continue to bear the brunt of many congressional decisions lately, or perhaps, lack thereof. Congress's inability to grapple with our budget crises ultimately led to a government shutdown and fight over the debt ceiling. Yet one common-sense solution is not difficult to find: stopping the abuse of offshore tax havens that costs us an estimated $150 billion in annual revenue.

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Blog Post | Budget, Tax

Webinar for State Officials on Spending Transparency | Phineas Baxandall

U.S. PIRG Education Fund conducted a webinar with officials from 31 states on ways to improve online spending transparency.

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Media Hit | Budget, Tax

Infrastructure Bill is Actually Giant Corporate Tax Break

Currently, many large corporations avoid taxes by booking profits to sham shell companies in offshore tax havens like the Cayman Islands. This offshore tax dodging costs Americans a whopping $90 billion each year in tax revenue.

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

Groups, Lawmakers Demand Cuts to Ag Subsidies, Deliver Petitions from 278,000 Citizens, 1,000 Small Farmers

Representatives Ron Kind (D-WI) and Tom Petri (R-WI) joined groups from across the political spectrum to deliver petitions and call on Congress to end subsidies to large agribusinesses, which are a part of the Farm Bill that is set to expire at the end of this month. 

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

New Poll: Small Businesses Overwhelmingly Support Closing Offshore Tax Loopholes for Large Corporations

A new scientific poll of small businesses found that small business owners overwhelmingly support closing loopholes that let large multinationals avoid taxes by artificially shifting their profits offshore. 85% of small business owners oppose “a tax system that would allow U.S. multinational corporations to avoid taxes permanently by shifting their income to places like the Cayman Islands.”

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

Offshore Tax Havens Cost Average Taxpayer $1,026 a Year, Small Businesses $3,067

With Tax Day approaching, it’s a good time to be reminded of where our tax dollars are going. U.S. PIRG released a new study which revealed that the average taxpayer in 2012 would have to shoulder an extra $1,026 in taxes to make up for the revenue lost due to the use of offshore tax havens by corporations and wealthy individuals. The report also found that the average small business would have to pay $3,067 to cover the cost of offshore tax dodging by large corporations.

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

BP Trial Decision May Hinge on Tax Deductibility

The high-stakes negotiations between BP and the Justice Department may depend on how determined the Department is to protect taxpayers from subsidizing a settlement. In the past, agencies have allowed companies to write off legal settlements over wrongdoing as a tax deduction. Doing so forces taxpayers to ultimately foot the bill for these deductions. Every dollar these companies avoid paying gets made up through cuts to public programs, higher national debt, or increases to other taxes.

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Media Hit | Budget, Tax

Sacramento Bee: Tax Havens Let Billions Vanish Into Thin Air

Just how much state lawmakers across America shift the burden of supporting government off the wealthiest individuals and largest multinational corporations and down the income ladder is the focus of a pioneering analysis by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund.

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Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Budget

California Budget Transparency 2.0

The ability to see how government uses the public purse is fundamental to democracy. Budget transparency checks corruption, bolsters public confidence in government, and promotes fiscal responsibility.

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Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Budget

California Budget Transparency 2.0

The ability to see how government uses the public purse is fundamental to democracy.  Budget transparency checks corruption, bolsters public confidence in government, and promotes fiscal responsibility. With the state in the midst of an historic budget crisis, it’s especially important for Californians to have easy access to information about the state’s expenditures. California has taken some steps towards better transparency, but still falls far short of the best practices established by other states.

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Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Budget

Privatization and the Public Interest

Chicago has been the most aggressive city in the United States in the privatization of public infrastructure. Chicago must adopt strong public interest protections and embrace greater government transparency before any further privatization of public assets takes place.

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

Economic Stimulus or Simply More Misguided Spending?

President-elect Obama has declared that the next recovery plan must do more than just pump money into the economy. It will also create the infrastructure that America needs for the 21st century. This fall, Congress asked states to submit lists of “ready-to-go” transportation infrastructure projects that could be funded by the stimulus package.

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Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Budget

Transparency.gov 2.0

This report makes the case that in the course of upgrading government IT systems we must seize the opportunity to catch up with a nationwide movement of state and local government to en­hance budget transparency and thereby increase efficiency, accountability, and public trust.

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