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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.
“At any level of government, taxpayers are entitled to know where their money goes,” said Representative Kimberly Yee, the main sponsor of both pieces of legislation. “I sponsored these bills to shine more light on local government budgets so Arizonans will have access to this important financial information.”
HB2421 will ensure that school districts’ annual financial reports and proposed and adopted budgets be posted on the Arizona Department of Education website. It also requires that school districts provide an update about how override monies were used. HB2422 calls for cities and towns to post their estimated revenues and expenses, as well as their adopted budget, on their official website. In the event that a municipality does not have a website, it can post these documents on a website of an association of cities and towns.
“Providing government budgets online not only provides the public with more information, but also can help government to save money,” said Serena Unrein, Public Interest Advocate for Arizona PIRG. “At a time when local governments are strapped for cash, it makes sense to post budgets online to help identify cost-cutting opportunities and eliminate inefficient spending.”
A recent report from the Arizona PIRG Education Fund noted that having budget information online can help save governments money by allowing for more efficient government administration, fewer information requests for staff, and more competitive bidding for public projects.
“Arizona’s taxpayers deserve to be able to easily access information about school district and local government finances,” stated Tom Jenney, Arizona director of Americans for Prosperity. “These transparency bills will allow Arizonans to find budget information quickly.”
These bills are part of a trend of increased government budget transparency. The State of Arizona launched a new transparency website in late December 2010, which was ranked as one of the top five state transparency websites in the country.
“Government transparency promotes fiscal responsibility and bolsters public confidence,” concluded Rep. Yee. “It is important, especially in tough economic times, for the public to be able to understand how tax dollars are being spent.”
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