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Jason Donofrio,
Arizona PIRG

Arizona Ranks Near Top of States for Transparency of Government Spending

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Arizona continues to be a leading state in government spending transparency, according to an annual report by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, Following the Money 2012: How the States Rank on Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data. For the second year in a row, Arizona received an A– in the report based on its official state transparency website, OpenBooks. In the 2010 Arizona PIRG Education Fund report, Arizona received a grade of F.

“Transparency and accountability go hand-in-hand,” said Governor Jan Brewer. “I’m thrilled to see OpenBooks receive recognition for its work to help pull back the curtain on state spending in Arizona.  Though there is work yet to be done, it is gratifying to see that Arizona is at the forefront of the national movement to improve openness in government.”

“Arizona and states across the country continue to be more transparent about where the money goes, extending checkbook-level disclosure of data on spending to contracting, tax subsidies, development incentives and other expenditures,” said Serena Unrein, Public Interest Advocate for the Arizona PIRG Education Fund. “However, there’s still room for Arizona to improve government spending transparency, especially since local governments will be required to post their budget information online by 2013.”

Officials from Arizona and 46 other states provided the researchers with feedback on their initial evaluation of state transparency websites. Arizona was ranked one of the leading states with the most comprehensive transparency websites, along with Texas, Kentucky, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and West Virginia.

Based an inventory of the content and accessibility of states' transparency websites, Following the Money 2012 assigns each state a grade of A to F. The report describes Arizona as a "leading state" because it has established a user-friendly transparency portal that contains relatively comprehensive information on government expenditures, allowing citizens and watchdog groups to monitor state spending quickly and easily.  However, the Arizona transparency website does not provide contracts for all transactions and provides fewer years of historical data than some other leading states.

"Taxpayers deserve to know how and where their money is being spent.  By placing spending information online, at the ease of their fingertips, we promote fiscal responsibility and hold those who spend our money accountable for their actions," said State Representative Kimberly Yee.  "We should be able to open our books for all taxpayers to see if we have nothing to hide."

This year’s report found that 46 states now provide an online database of government expenditures with “checkbook-level” detail, a major increase from 32 states two years ago. Arizona launched OpenBooks, its official state transparency website, in December 2010. The states with the most transparent spending generally include data on economic development subsidies, expenditures granted through the tax code, and quasi-public agencies.

“We are proud that Arizona has one of the leading transparency websites in the country,” said D. Clark Partridge, State Comptroller and the official responsible for Arizona’s transparency website. “We are now in the process of making our transparency website available to counties, cities, and other local governments as they need to launch their transparency websites by next year.”

States that have created or improved their online transparency have typically done so with little upfront cost. In fact, states with top-flight transparency websites actually save money for taxpayers, while also restoring public confidence in government, and preventing misspending and pay-to-play contracts.

“Having a top-notch transparency website is important because it helps to shine a light on Arizona's government spending of all types,” said Byron Schlomach, Ph.D., an economist with the Goldwater Institute, an independent government watchdog organization in Phoenix. “Arizona taxpayers need to be able to follow the money.”

To read the report, click here.

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