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Arizona received a “B” when it comes to government spending transparency, according to Following the Money 2016: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data, the seventh annual report of its kind by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund.
This year’s report co-authored by the Frontier Group recognized more states as leaders than ever before with all but two states providing checkbook-level data for one or more economic development subsidy programs and more than half of states making that subsidy data available for researchers to download and analyze. Several states achieved perfect or near perfect scores based on this year’s criteria.
“When it comes to making the state’s spending transparent online, Arizona has made great strides. However, to keep step with providing information that can improve efficiency, save money for taxpayers and foster public confidence in government, Arizona needs to pick up the pace and provide data for economic development subsidies,” stated Diane E. Brown, Executive Director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund.
Brown said that while Arizona provides comprehensive information about its largest economic development subsidy, the Arizona Competes Fund, the state doesn’t provide the same level of data for its other large subsidy programs.
“States’ online spending transparency efforts are paying off in better informed citizens and a more efficient government,” said Elizabeth Ridlington, policy analyst with Frontier Group and co-author of the report. “Our research found that top-ranked states have been making steady improvements to their transparency websites over the years, giving citizens in most states unprecedented access to information on where their tax money goes.”
States that have created or improved their online transparency have typically done so with little upfront cost. In fact, top-flight transparency websites can save money for taxpayers, while also restoring public confidence in government and preventing misspending and pay-to-play contracts. Arizona officials reported that their transparency portal cost $72,000, plus existing staff time to create, and approximately $125,000 to maintain annually. Officials from Arizona and 43 other states provided PIRG researchers with feedback on their initial evaluation of state transparency websites.
Arizona’s transparency website is operated by the General Accounting Office, Department of Administration. To visit it, click here: www.openbooks.az.gov
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