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

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

New Maine Spending Transparency Website Announced in Governor’s Speech

The state of Maine launches a new spending transparency website with many strong features and some significant shortcomings.

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

The Hidden Cost of Offshore Tax Havens

In 2011, states lost approximately $39.8 billion in tax revenues from corporations and wealthy individuals who sheltered money in foreign tax havens. Multinational corporations account for more than $26 billion of the lost tax revenue, and wealthy individuals account for the rest.

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

New Study: Offshore Tax Dodging Blows $40 Billion Hole in State Budgets

With states across the country facing dire fiscal crunches and lawmakers in Washington gearing up for more budget showdowns, U.S. PIRG Education Fund released a new study revealing that state budgets were hit collectively with $40 billion in lost revenue from offshore tax dodging last year.

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

Transparency in City Spending

The ability to see how government uses the public purse is fundamental to democracy. Transparency in government spending checks corruption, bolsters public confidence, improves responsiveness, and promotes greater effectiveness and fiscal responsibility.

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Media Hit | Budget, Tax

New York Times: Paying the Price, But Often Deducting It

[T]here’s more than meets the eye to the big legal settlements you’ve been reading about involving some of the nation’s biggest banks. Actually, there’s less than meets the eye. The dollar signs are big, but they aren’t as big as they look, at least for the banks. That’s because some or all of these payments will probably be tax-deductible. The banks can claim them as business expenses. Taxpayers, therefore, will likely lighten the banks’ loads.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget

White House Plan to Close Special Interest Tax Loopholes Is the Right Approach to Reform, But Details Matter

Statement by Phineas Baxandall, Senior Tax and Budget Analyst for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, in response to the White House announcement today proposing to eliminate tax loopholes and preferences.

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

House Transportation Bill a Step Backwards, Lacks Serious Funding Mechanism

 

Statement of U.S. PIRG Tax and Budget Associate Dan Smith on the House transportation reauthorization bill introduced today.

 

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

Obama: Companies Shouldn’t Dodge Taxes

Statement of US PIRG Tax and Budget Associate Dan Smith on President Obama’s State of the Union Address.

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Media Hit | Budget

The Economist: You’re on film: The trouble with outsourcing traffic-law enforcement

Phineas Baxandall at the US Public Interest Research Group, a non-partisan advocacy, says the trend toward privatising the enforcement of traffic laws poses inherent conflicts of interest. Municipalities typically sign up because they are strapped for cash. When the contract involves revenue-sharing between the vendor and the municipality, there is an incentive to issue more tickets than necessary. But even flat-fee contracts can cause problems, if the system is implicitly tuned to recoup that fee by, in effect, setting a quota of tickets to be issued.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget

Supercommittee Squanders Opportunity to Cut Waste

Following months of partisan bickering, the Supercommittee has squandered a major opportunity to cut truly wasteful spending and special interest handouts.

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