Taxpayer Safeguards

ARIZONA EARNS HIGH MARKS FOR TRANSPARENCY—Over the past few years, Arizona has gone from earning an “F” to earning an “B“ for government spending transparency, yet there is still room for improvement.

ARIZONA AT HEAD OF REPORTING SPENDING

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

In 2010, Arizona’s Department of Administration created a new transparency website called OpenBooks.az.gov. This website allows residents to monitor most state expenditures at the checkbook level.

The state can still do more to shine light on its expenditures. While the website tracks some subsidies in the form of grants and tax credits — and in some cases shows the number of jobs and investments that companies are expected to deliver — many subsidy programs lack this detail and no information is provided on the amount of tax credits given to individual companies.

Arizona decision makers should require comprehensive information on economic subsidies is added to this website.

TRANSPARENCY 2.0 STANDARDS

Today, you can go online to track packages in the mail, check your cell phone minutes, and compare real estate prices nationwide. Yet government spending continues to be analog. What we're calling Transparency 2.0 is a new standard of comprehensive, online one-stop, one-click budget accountability and accessibility.

The following are the Transparency 2.0 standards for comprehensive, one-stop, one-click budget accountability and accessibility:

Comprehensive: A user-friendly Web portal provides residents the ability to search detailed information about government contracts, spending, subsidies, and tax expenditures for all government entities.

One-Stop: Residents can search all government expenditures on a single website.

One-Click Searchable: Residents can search data with a single query or browse common-sense categories. Residents can sort data on government spending by recipient, amount, legislative district, granting agency, purpose, or keyword. Residents can also download data to conduct detailed off-line analyses.

Issue updates

News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Budget

Problems Identified with Growing Trend of Red-Light and Speed Cameras

A new report released today by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund outlines problems with the growing trend among cities in Arizona and across the country to outsource traffic enforcement to red-light and speed camera vendors.

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Media Hit | Budget

Cronkite News Service: Public interest group: Outsourcing traffic cameras has pitfalls

Arizona communities should put public safety ahead of profits when deciding whether to install traffic cameras through private companies, a public interest group contends in a new report.

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News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Budget

New Report Shows Problems with Widely Used Local Economic Development Tool

New research released today outlines problems with the growing trend among cities to borrow against future growth and divert tax revenues as a way to attract economic development.

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Report | Arizona 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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News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Budget

Transparency Urged for the Arizona Commerce Authority

At the September 27, 2011 meeting of the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA), the Arizona PIRG Education Fund and Americans for Prosperity called on the new entity to be transparent and accountable to taxpayers.

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News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Budget

New State Budget Transparency Website Launched

Today the Arizona Department of Administration (ADOA) launched a state budget transparency website called Arizona OpenBooks (http://openbooks.az.gov).  Legislation passed in 2008 required the website to be launched by January 1, 2011.

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News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Budget

With State Deadline Passed, Advocates Issue Own Transparency Report

According to the law, the Arizona Department of Administration (ADOA) was to issue a report by September 1, 2009, detailing progress toward creation of a governmental transparency system. When the deadline for the initial transparency report passed, the Arizona PIRG Education Fund issued its own report.

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News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

In a new report by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group, Arizona received an “A-” for its government spending transparency website. Arizona tied for 5th among the states in providing online access to government spending data.

Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

State governments spend hundreds of billions of dollars each year on everything from employee salaries and office supplies to professional lawyers and subsidies to encourage economic development. Public accountability helps ensure that state funds are spent wisely.

Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

This report, the Arizona PIRG Education Fund’s fourth annual evaluation of state transparency websites, finds that states are closer than ever before to meeting the standards of “Transparency 2.0” – encompassing, one-stop, one-click checkbook transparency and accountability. However, many states, including Arizona, still have a long way to go to provide taxpayers with the information they need to ensure that government is spending their money effectively.

News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

Arizona received a ‘B’ when it comes to government spending transparency, according to the fourth annual report by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, Following the Money 2013: How the States Rank on Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data. Arizona’s official state transparency website, OpenBooks, received an ‘A-’ in last year’s report.

Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

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. Cities across the country have been moving toward making their checkbooks transparent by creating transparency portals and posting recipient-specific spending data online.

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