Report | WashPIRG Foundation | Budget

Transparency in City Spending

The ability to see how government uses the public purse is fundamental to democracy. Transparency in government spending checks corruption, bolsters public confidence, improves responsiveness, and promotes greater effectiveness and fiscal responsibility.
Cities across the country have been moving toward making their checkbooks transparent by creating transparency portals and posting recipient-specific spending data online. Currently, 17 of America’s 30 most populous cities provide online databases of government expenditures with “checkbook-level” detail.  Online checkbooks in most cities are searchable, making it easier for residents to follow the money and monitor government spending.
Following our earlier studies of government spending at the state level, this report evaluates the progress of America’s 30 largest cities toward “Transparency 2.0” – a standard of comprehensive, one-stop, one-click budget accountability and accessibility. Twelve scoring criteria were used to measure the breadth of information each city provides on-line and the information’s searchability. Since the deployment of city resources is intimately linked to providing everyday quality-of-life services for constituents, these criteria also include how well cities enable residents to make and track service requests online. Based on these findings, we then assigned each city a number grade from zero to 100 and a corresponding letter grade from “A” to “F.” (See Table ES-1 for the list of cities and grades. See Appendix D for the methodology.)
Out of America’s largest cities, three stand out as leaders in online transparency – earning “A” grades based on our criteria.
Over the next year, America’s other large cities should improve their transparency websites, providing their residents with greater access to information about city spending decisions. Some cities may want to take advantage of New York City’s open code to adapt functionality without paying outside programmers.

News Release | WashPIRG | Budget

New Report: Washington Receives a “B” in Annual Report on Transparency of Government Spending

Washington received a “B” when it comes to government spending transparency, according to Following the Money 2012: How the States Rank on Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data, the third annual report of its kind by the United States Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) and the Washington Public Interest Research Group (WashPIRG).

Report | WashPIRG Foundation | Budget

Following the Money 2012

The ability to see how government uses the public purse is fundamental to democracy. Transparency in government spending promotes fiscal responsibility, checks corruption, and bolsters public confidence.

In the past few years, state governments across the country have made their checkbooks transparent by creating online transparency portals. These government-operated websites allow visitors to view the government’s checkbook – who receives state money, how much, and for what purposes. Most of these websites are also searchable, making it easier for residents to follow the money and monitor government spending of many sorts. Today almost every state operates a transparency website with the state’s checkbook accessible to the public.

One in five Americans lives in a jurisdiction that outsources traffic ticketing this way, according to a newly released report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, titled "Caution: Red Light Cameras Ahead; The Risks of Privatizing Traffic Law Enforcement and How to Protect the Public." And a report released by the Justice Department suggests this trend may accelerate under the twin pressures of budget pressure and intense lobbying.

News Release | WashPIRG | Budget

WashPIRG says “Enough’s enough; time to include loopholes and subsidies in ‘all-cuts’ budgets”

As state economists reveal a $1.4 billion shortfall in anticipated state revenues, the Washington Public Interest Research Group (WashPIRG) is calling for lawmakers to include the closure of wasteful tax loopholes in efforts to rebalance the state budget.

Media Hit | Budget, Tax

Forecast: State to take in $1.4 bil in fewer taxes

The state's tax revenues could come in as much as $1.4 billion lower than previously estimated, a number so big that state lawmakers will have to scramble to come up with a response to the worsening economic news.

Media Hit | Budget

With bad revenue forecast, can special session be far behind?

With economic recovery described as “a mirage in the desert” and a projected gap between income and spending growing to $1.4 billion, state officials began setting the stage Thursday for a special legislative session that would find ways to cut more from the budget.

Report | U.S. Public Interest Research Group and National Taxpayers Union | Budget

Toward Common Ground

To break through the ideological divide that has dominated Washington this past year and offer a pathway to address the nation’s fiscal problems, the National Taxpayers Union and WashPIRG joined together to identify mutually acceptable deficit reduction measures. This report documents our findings.

Media Hit | Budget

Deficit 'Super Committee' Selection Sen. Murray Proves Controversial

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has named Democrat Patty Murray of Washington to co-chair a powerful "super committee" charged with finding more than $1 trillion in deficit cuts this fall. 

News Release | WashPIRG | Budget

WashPIRG supports selection of Sen. Patty Murray as co-chair of debt reduction “super committee”

News of the appointment of Sen. Patty Murray to the debt reduction “super committee” was welcomed by a leading public interest advocate organization today.


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