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

News Release | U.S. PIRG Ed Fund & Citizens for Tax Justice | Budget, Tax

Study: 70% of Fortune 500 Companies Used Tax Havens in 2013

Tax loopholes encouraged more than 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies to maintain subsidiaries in offshore tax havens as of 2013, according to “Offshore Shell Games,” released today by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Citizens For Tax Justice. Collectively, the companies reported booking nearly $2 trillion offshore for tax purposes, with just 30 companies accounting for 62 percent of the total, or $1.2 trillion.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Ed Fund & Citizens for Tax Justice | Budget, Tax

Offshore Shell Games 2014

Tax loopholes encouraged more than 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies to maintain subsidiaries in offshore tax havens as of 2013, according to “Offshore Shell Games,” released today by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Citizens For Tax Justice. Collectively, the companies reported booking nearly $2 trillion offshore for tax purposes, with just 30 companies accounting for 62 percent of the total, or $1.2 trillion.

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

House Tax Writers Vote to Make Offshore Loopholes Permanent

House tax writers voted to renew and making permanent two expired offshore tax loopholes, forcing average taxpayers and small business owners to pick up the tab for tax dodging by many multinationals for years to come. For all of the talk in Washington about getting our fiscal house in order, the Committee did not consider how to pay for these expensive tax breaks.

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

New Report Ranks Transparency of Government Spending in the 50 States

Most states are improving the transparency of government spending, but some do a much better job than others.

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

Following the Money 2014

The fifth annual report card evaluating how well each of the 50 states provide public access to data about government spending shows ongoing advances in transparency across the nation but some states far ahead of others.

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

New Factsheet Outlines How Corporations Get Tax Write-Offs for Consumer Harm

A new factsheet from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group documents how corporations that have been charged with harming consumers through mortgage violations, price-fixing, racial discrimination and other charges have typically been able to write off the cost of their misdeeds on their taxes.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget

New Farm Bill Contains Massive Taxpayer Handouts To Big Ag, Last Minute Deal Removed Even Modest Taxpayer Savings

U.S. PIRG urges Congress to vote NO on the Farm Bill. At a time of supposed fiscal caution, this bill would put taxpayers on the hook for another five years of billion-dollar handouts to huge, profitable agribusinesses. Even the most modest reforms to trim subsidies for the largest players were stripped out or watered down at the last second by the chairs of the House and Senate Agricultural Committees.

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

Obama Plan to Close Corporate Loopholes, Invest in Infrastructure Promising, but Lacks Critical Details

In his State of the Union Address tonight, President Obama called for closing corporate tax loopholes and investing in infrastructure. His plan is promising, but lacks critical details.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget

A Step In The Right Direction: Appropriations Bill Roots Out Some Waste, but Doesn’t Do Enough To Protect Public Priorities and End Special Interest Handouts

Statement of U.S. PIRG Tax and Budget Associate Jaimie Woo on the Bipartisan Omnibus Appropriations Bill passed by the House of Representatives. 

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Media Hit | Budget

Congress Sheds Light On Government Waste

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee discussed ways to reduce government waste at a hearing Thursday, with a group of think tanks offering recommendations that ranged from cutting military programs to stopping aid to states.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Budget

Toward Common Ground 2010

U.S. PIRG and National Taxpayers Union have joined together to propose a list of 30 specific recommendations to reform our future spending commitments. If enacted in their entirety, these changes would save taxpayers over $600 billion in total by 2015, the target date for the Fiscal Commission to reduce our publicly-held debt-to-GDP ratio to a more sustainable level of 60 percent.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Budget

The Next Trillion: Fiscal Responsibility Through More Accountability

To assist the work of the  President's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, U.S. PIRG looked at existing tax code for loopholes, reviewed government reports on wasteful contracting practices and crunched the numbers. We came up with an initial list of ways the government can save the first trillion dollars by enacting common sense policies that advance the public interest.

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Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Budget

Out of the Shadows

This study uses data provided to us by the quasi-public agencies in response to public records requests, as well as public audits and online searches, to examine the size and scope of quasi-public agencies in Massachusetts and the extent to which their budgets and decision-making are open to the public.

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Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Budget

Out of the Shadows

In Massachusetts, quasi-public agencies perform vital government functions, delivering essential services such as operating public buses and rail systems, delivering drinking water and managing public pensions. Because they are not directly accountable to the legislature and exempt from many kinds of public oversight, these agencies should make their decisions and budgets especially open to public scrutiny.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Budget, Tax

Following the Money

This report evaluates states’ progress toward “Transparency 2.0” – a new standard of comprehensive, one-stop, one-click budget accountability and accessibility. At least 7 states have become leaders in the drive toward Transparency 2.0, launching easy-to-use, searchable Web sites with a wide range of spending transparency information.

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