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 | Budget, Tax

Drug Company’s $193M Settlement for Misconduct May Become Big Tax Write-Off

A new factsheet from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group documents how health care and pharmaceutical corporations are able to write off the payments they make to settle charges of wrongdoing, such as fraud, on their taxes.

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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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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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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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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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Media Hit | Budget, Tax

The $4 Billion Question: Do We Value JPMorgan More Than Consumer Protection?

Is $4 billion in taxpayer money better spent subsidizing JPMorgan's alleged criminal activity or funding the federal agency charged with defending consumers from dangerous financial products?

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

Senator Levin Introduces Bill to Crack Down on Tax Haven Abuse

Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), joined by cosponsors Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mark Begich (D-AK), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), introduced the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act, which would save $220 billion over the next ten years. U.S. PIRG draws attention to the abuse by shipping more than 700 postcards to a Bank of American P.O. box in the Cayman Islands, a well-known tax haven. 

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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 | 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 | 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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