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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.
“In one year, Arizona went from having a failing grade to making the honor roll,” said Serena Unrein, Public Interest Advocate at Arizona PIRG. “While there’s still plenty of room to improve government budget transparency, Arizona deserves credit for taking a significant leap forward with the creation of OpenBooks, the state’s new transparency site.”
Arizona is one of the leading states when it comes to disclosing state spending, along with Kentucky, Texas, Indiana, and Louisiana. Since last year’s report, Arizona has launched a new transparency website that has put Arizona on the map in government transparency.
According to Arizona PIRG, in the past year there has been remarkable progress across the country with new states providing online access to government spending information and several states pioneering new tools to further expand citizens’ access to government spending information. This year’s report found that 40 states now provide an online database of government expenditures with “checkbook-level” detail. The states with the most transparent spending also include data on economic development subsidies, expenditures granted through the tax code, and quasi-public agencies.
“We developed OpenBooks knowing how important it is to provide Arizona taxpayers with information about both state revenues and state expenditures,” said Clark Partridge, State Comptroller and the official responsible for the development of Arizona’s new transparency website. “It is exciting to see that Arizona has one of the top five budget transparency websites in the country.”
Arizona is one of six states that have launched brand new transparency websites since last year’s report and many more have made improvements to existing websites. The best state transparency tools were highly searchable, engaged citizens, and included detailed information about government contracts, tax expenditures, tax subsidies and economic development incentives.
“Having one of the best transparency websites in the nation is important because it helps shine a light on Arizona’s government spending,” said State Representative Kimberly Yee, who is sponsoring government transparency legislation this session to improve how well school districts and local governments provide budget information online. “Given the severity of our state’s budget problems, Arizona taxpayers need to be able to follow where the money is going and know exactly how their tax dollars are being spent.”
States that have created or improved their online transparency have typically done so with little upfront cost. In fact, states with top-flight transparency websites actually save money for taxpayers, while also restoring public confidence in government, and preventing misspending and pay-to-play contracts.
“Arizonans should be proud that their state is a national leader in providing budget information online,” Byron Schlomach, Ph.D., an economist with the Goldwater Institute, an independent government watchdog organization in Phoenix. “Taxpayers deserve to know where their money goes. It’s refreshing to see that Arizona has made significant progress improving government transparency over the last year.”
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