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In a new report by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group, Arizona received an “A-” for its government spending transparency website (http://openbooks.az.gov/). Arizona tied for 5th among the states in providing online access to government spending data.
The report, “Following the Money 2018: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data”, graded each state’s transparency website from “A” to “F” based on content and user-friendliness. For the first time, the organizations worked with focus groups to determine how well ordinary citizens could navigate the budget transparency websites.
Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Yee, a distinguished champion of transparency in the Arizona state legislature, stated, “When citizens, organizations, appointed and elected officials have easily accessible information on how our hard-earned taxpayer money is spent, we have a greater ability to identify and eliminate waste and duplication in government services.” Senate Majority Leader Yee continued, “I have long supported transparency in spending and posting budgets online to hold government accountable to our taxpayers.”
Diane E. Brown, Executive Director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, added, “When Arizona officials are transparent about how our tax dollars are being spent; the state can save money, operate more efficiently and effectively and citizens can feel more confident in their government.”
According to the report, Arizona qualifies as a “leading” state. Arizona’s budget transparency website excelled in “real-world” user-friendliness and functionality as well as most other categories. However, the report found the website could further improve by providing comprehensive information for all its economic development subsidies. Arizona provides comprehensive information about its largest economic development subsidy, the Arizona Competes Fund, but the state doesn’t provide the same level of data for its other large subsidy programs.
Tom Jenney, Senior Legislative Advisor for Americans for Prosperity, said, “While Arizona should be applauded for efforts to increase information on how taxpayer money is spent, the state should not rest on its laurels. We can always do better. The next step is to get lawmakers to use the information to eliminate corporate welfare and subsidies that work against the best interest of all taxpayers.”
Officials with the Arizona Department of Administration reported that their transparency portal cost $20,000 to implement its new website, plus existing staff time, and costs approximately $120,000 + $1,000 for each local government added on an annual basis.
“Over the years the Arizona PIRG Education Fund and others have provided valuable input as part of the State’s outreach and the ongoing transparency process,” said Clark Partridge, the State Comptroller. “Our staff actively seeks opportunities to provide high quality fiscal transparency to citizens, and it’s great to see recognition of their work.”
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