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

Blog Post | Budget

Our Taxpayer Dollars: Going to Waste and Wealthy Corporations | Jaimie Woo

 

Congress just passed a Farm Bill that will put taxpayers on the hook for another five years of billion-dollar handouts to huge, wealthy agribusinesses. Even the most modest reforms to trim subsidies 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

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

Murray-Ryan Budget Deal Cuts Some Waste, but Misses Chance to Close Corporate Tax Loopholes

With our nation facing tough budget choices, U.S. PIRG applauds Senator Murray and Congressman Ryan for naming a few names when it comes to wasteful programs and special interest giveaways. This is the first step to ending the arbitrary sequester approach to budgeting, which throws the baby out with the bathwater...Unfortunately, the budget plan fails to close a single corporate tax loophole. This is a huge missed opportunity...There’s much more room for lawmakers to find common ground by ending wasteful programs while preserving those that serve the public interest, and closing the loopholes that only benefit special interests.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget

Unlikely Allies Offer Billions in Deficit Reduction Recommendations for Budget Conference Committee

As the Congressional Budget Conference Committee nears its deadline to craft a fiscal plan for the coming years, a new report released today by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) and the National Taxpayers Union (NTU) provides our elected leaders with a solid place to start: over half a trillion dollars’ worth of deficit reduction recommendations with appeal from across the political spectrum in, “Toward Common Ground: Bridging the Political Divide with Deficit Reduction Recommendations for Congress.”

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Media Hit | Budget, Tax

Enriquez, Visco: Tax deduction benefits BP in blast settlement

Many companies deduct the cost of settlement payments for misdeeds like the Texas City disaster as an ordinary business expense.

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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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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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Report | WISPIRG | Budget

WISPIRG Report: Outsourcing Outrages

State leaders have proposed to end the existing requirement for proposals that privatize public functions to show cost-benefit advantages and report on results for Department of Transportation projects over $25,000.  Privatization in other states has sometimes saved the public money, but has often led to huge losses and other problems. Politicians may be enticed by the short-term cash offered by privatization, but citizens of Wisconsin deserve to know that there will not be larger long-term losses.

 

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Budget

Caution: Red Light Cameras Ahead

Privatized traffic law enforcement systems are spreading rapidly across the United States. As many as 700 local jurisdictions have entered into deals with for-profit companies to install camera systems at intersections and along roadways to encourage drivers to obey traffic signals and follow speed limits. Local contracting for automated traffic enforcement systems may sometimes be a useful tool for keeping drivers and pedestrians safe. But when private firms and municipalities consider revenues first, and safety second, the public interest is threatened.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Budget

Tax-Increment Financing

Tax-increment financing (TIF) has been a widely used tool for municipalities seeking private investment. TIF allows cities and towns to borrow against an area’s future tax revenues in order to invest in immediate projects or encourage present development. When used properly, TIF can promote enduring growth and stronger communities for blighted neighborhoods; but TIF can also end up wasting taxpayer resources or channeling money to politically favored special interests.

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