Taxpayer Safeguards

ARIZONA EARNS HIGH MARKS FOR TRANSPARENCY—Over the past few years, Arizona has gone from earning an “F” to earning an “A-“ 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

Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Budget

Caution: Red Light Cameras Ahead

Privatized traffic law enforcement systems are spreading rapidly across the United States, but the public interest is threatened when private camera companies and municipalities focus on ticket revenues first and safety second.

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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

Accountability, 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 | Budget

Advocates Recommend Caution upon issuance of Governor's privatization report

Statement of Arizona PIRG Public Interest Advocate Serena Unrein on the final report of the Arizona Commission on Privatization and Efficiency (COPE)

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News Release | Arizona PIRG | Budget, Tax

Arizona Commerce Authority Given Transparency Recommendations

On July 1st, 2011, the Arizona Commerce Authority officially will begin operations. The Authority, a quasi-public entity, will replace the Arizona Department of Commerce and dispense taxpayer-funded subsidies to private businesses. Governor Brewer and the Arizona legislature approved this change on February 16, 2011.

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News Release | Arizona PIRG | Budget

Supporters Cheer Passage of Budget Transparency Bills

Proponents of government transparency had reason to celebrate Governor Jan Brewer’s signature on two pieces of legislation aimed at increasing the budget transparency of local governments. House Bills 2421 and 2422 will make improvements in how well school districts and local governments provide budget information online.

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News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Budget

Arizona Earns an A-minus in Government Spending Transparency

Arizona received an A-minus when it comes to openness about government spending, according to Following the Money 2011: How the States Rank on Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data, the second annual report of its kind by the Arizona Public Interest Research Group (Arizona PIRG).  Included with the report is an interactive online tool that allows users to view how Arizona what is doing compared to other states’ transparency practices.

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News Release | Arizona PIRG | Budget

Watchdog Group Raises Concerns Over Lack of Transparency for Proposed Commerce Authority

Governor Jan Brewer and legislative leaders recently announced the introduction of a “jobs bill,” which includes a measure that would replace the Arizona Department of Commerce with a new quasi-public board called the Arizona Commerce Authority.

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