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Arizona gets an “F” when it comes to openness about government spending, according to an Arizona PIRG Education Fund report, Following the Money: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data, which was released today.
“The good news is that states with robust transparency websites are saving money, restoring public confidence in government, and preventing misspending and pay-to-play contracts, with little upfront cost,” stated Diane E. Brown, Executive Director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund. “The bad news is Arizona does not yet provide its taxpayers with the ability to understand where their hard-earned dollars are spent.”
“Given the severity of our state’s budget problems, Arizona taxpayers need to be confident that they can follow the money on a state and local level,” stated Representative Steve Montenegro, the lead sponsor of legislation moving through the Arizona legislature to ensure budget transparency occurs at the local level.
Following the Money found that 32 states provide an online database of government expenditures with “checkbook-level” detail. Brown said the best state transparency tools are highly searchable, and include detailed information about government contracts, tax subsidies and special grants to businesses.
According to the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, an example of a leading state transparency web tool is Open Door Kentucky which allows visitors to easily search and view contracts past and present, to search by contractor or type of contract activity, and provides explanations of the purpose of individual contracts. In addition, tax subsidies and economic development grants are included, as are expenditures by some quasi-public agencies. Similarly, the State of Illinois’ Corporate Accountability Project tracks grants given to companies for job creation – and provides yearly reports signed by the companies of how many jobs were actually created.
The leading states with the most open spending are: Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota, Texas, Missouri and Pennsylvania. Arizona received an “F” grade because it lacks a website with checkbook-level detail.
“The best way to know what government is doing is to know how government is spending its money. Too often, this is difficult to find out without a lot of expense in time and money. There is a lack of sunlight on Arizona’s government right now, but the dawn is coming,” said Byron Schlomach, Ph.D., economist with the Goldwater Institute.
Senator Russell Pearce, who has championed transparency legislation concluded, “Across the nation, this is the year of transparency. Arizona and its municipalities need to provide citizens comprehensive budget information and an easily accessible way to hold their government accountable.”
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