Budget

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group | Budget

New Report: Special Districts Too Often Fail to Show How They Spend Money

A new report found that most special districts across the country are failing to provide accessible, online, and comprehensive information about their spending. Special districts are created to provide specific services like fire protection, medical care, transportation and housing for a designated area that would otherwise typically be provided directly by a city, county or state. 53% of the 79 special districts evaluated across the country earned failing grades for their spending transparency, according to “Following the Money 2017: Governing in the Shadows” by United States Public Interest Research Group Education Fund and Frontier Group. Each district evaluated earned an A through F grade for its transparency efforts.

Resource | Budget

Special Districts Fact Sheet

A fact sheet about special district governments.

Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group | Budget

Following the Money 2017: Special Districts

Citizens’ ability to understand how their tax dollars are spent is fundamental to democracy. Budget and spending transparency holds government officials accountable for making smart decisions, checks corruption, and provides citizens an opportunity to affect how government dollars are spent.

“Special districts” are a type of government agency that exist outside of traditional forms of general purpose local or state governments, and serve key governmental functions such as public transit or housing. However, special districts are poorly understood by the public and often do business without adhering to modern standards of government budget or spending transparency. The lack of transparency and accountability of many special districts has caused concern among some state agencies and government watchdogs, as it can contribute to an atmosphere conducive to lowered efficiency and potential misconduct. 

 

A review of 79 special districts’ online financial transparency shows that while a few districts are meeting the goals of “Transparency 2.0” – a standard of comprehensive, one-stop, oneclick budget accountability and accessibility – the vast majority do little to inform citizens about how they spend money. To empower and engage the public, enable citizen oversight of all branches of government, and improve the efficiency with which they operate, special districts, along with local and state governments, should expand the amount and improve the quality of spending data that are made available to the public online. 

Today marks one year since a leak of millions of documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca gave a preview into the world of anonymous companies used to hide money both here at home and abroad.

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget, Public Health

America’s Health Comes in Last Place in “America First” Budget

Today, President Trump released his first proposed budget to Congress. Here is a statement from Toxics Director Kara Cook-Schultz on the President’s budget proposal.

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

AT&T, Duke Energy and Disney among the largest corporate donors to candidates in 2016

Corporations from Walmart, to Aflac, to Duke Energy were among the largest contributors to candidates in states during 2016, according to a new analysis of data by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG).

U.S. PIRG Statement on President Trump’s First Address to Congress

President Trump gave his first address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, highlighting his legislative priorities for the coming year. His speech touched on issues ranging from the budget, infrastructure, and special interest influence in government.

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

Picking Up the Tab 2016

Every year, corporations and wealthy individuals use complicated gimmicks to shift U.S. earnings to subsidiaries in offshore tax havens – countries with minimal or no taxes – in order to reduce their federal and state income tax liability by billions of dollars. While tax haven abusers benefit from America’s markets, public infrastructure, educated workforce, security and rule of law – all supported in one way or another by tax dollars – they avoid paying their fair share for these benefits.

Small business owners are hit twice by the effects of tax dodging by large multinational corporations. Small businesses are placed at a competitive disadvantage because they rarely have subsidiaries in tax havens and the armies of tax lawyers and accountants necessary to exploit the loopholes that come with such subsidiaries. Meanwhile, nearly 73% of Fortune 500 companies operate subsidiaries in tax haven countries. Small businesses are forced to compete with multinational corporations based on the cleverness of their tax gimmicks rather than on their innovation or quality of product.

As a result, these small businesses, which pay their taxes without the loopholes, end up picking up the tab for offshore tax avoidance in the form of higher taxes, cuts to public programs, or increases to the federal debt.

The United States loses approximately $147 billion in federal and state revenue each year due to corporations using tax havens to dodge taxes. This report calculates the extent that tax responsibilities would be shifted to small businesses in each state if that business sector picked up the tab  – divided equally among the small businesses.

▪     The federal government loses $128.5 billion in corporate tax revenue due to tax haven abuse. Every small business would need to pay an additional $4,481 in federal taxes to account for the revenue lost.

▪     Corporate tax haven abuse costs state governments an estimated $18.5 billion in lost tax revenue. Small businesses across the country would have to pay on average an additional $647 to make up for the lost state taxes.

▪     Because state corporate tax rates vary considerably, small businesses in some states would have to pay as much as $2,520 to make up for state tax revenue lost to tax haven abuse.

 

 

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

Offshore Shell Games 2016

U.S.-based multinational corporations are allowed to play by a different set of rules than small and domestic businesses or individuals when it comes to paying taxes. Corporate lobbyists and their congressional allies have riddled the U.S. tax code with loopholes and exceptions that enable tax attorneys and corporate accountants to book U.S. earned profits to subsidiaries located in offshore tax haven countries with minimal or no taxes. The most transparent and galling aspect of this is that often, a company’s operational presence in a tax haven may be nothing more than a mailbox. Overall, multinational corporations use tax havens to avoid an estimated $100 billion in federal income taxes each year.

Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group | Budget, Tax

Following the Money 2016

State governments spend hundreds of billions of dollars each year through contracts for goods and services, subsidies to encourage economic development, and other expenditures. Public accountability helps ensure that state funds are spent as wisely as possible.

State-operated spending transparency websites provide checkbook-level detail on government spending, allowing citizens and watchdog groups to view payments made to individual companies, the goods or services purchased, and the benefits obtained in exchange for public subsidies.

 

All 50 states operate websites to make information on state expenditures accessible to the public, and in the past year these web portals continued to improve. For instance, all but four states provide checkbook-level data for one or more economic development subsidy programs and more than half of states make that subsidy data available for researchers to download and analyze. 

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