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Budget Transparency Advances Across Country

Last week, the Massachusetts House unanimously passed the Revenues and Expenditures Transparency Act, H 2972, to create a searchable, online database that details state spending and revenue sources.  Lawmakers also approved an amendment to create greater taxpayer accountability by providing increased transparency around some business tax credits.  As House Chairman of the Joint Committee on Revenue Rep. Jay Kauffman explains, "[p]ublic access to the way we raise and spend money is essential, enabling us to make more-informed decisions for the tax-paying constituents who elect us to serve on their behalf."

This progressive victory comes on the heels of the release of U.S. PIRG's, Following the Money: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data, which analyzes and ranks each state on their development of comprehensive, one-stop, one-click budget accountability and accessibility.  Massachusetts lags behind most of the country and received an "F" for lacking comprehensive online spending disclosure.  The report also discusses some of the major benefits of corporate transparency, which can promote sound fiscal practices, find spending inefficiencies, reduce corruption, and encourage a more focused budget process.

As part of our 2010 Shared Multi-State Agenda, the Progressive States Network has worked with state lawmakers nationwide to promote Corporate Transparency in State Budgets policies.  As states confront massive budget shortfalls, declining revenues, and deal with the aftermath of financial industry abuses and the economic downturn, state lawmakers have advanced some notable transparency reforms:

  • Colorado: The House last week approved Rep. Sal Pace's HB1350, which requires any entity that receives public funds for the purpose of economic development to file an annual report to the Colorado economic development commission on jobs created, wages paid, and other important categories.  It will now be considered by the state Senate.
  • Iowa: This session, the Iowa Legislature approved HF 2527/SF 2380, which enacts modest tax credit reform, including a process to regularly examine credits, temporarily suspending the film tax credit, and reducing spending on other credits.
  • Maine: The Maine Legislature approved Rep. Emily Caine's LD 1694 that will convene a working group to identify and examine each tax expenditure, design a method to assess economic impact, recommend a regular tax expenditure report and review schedule, and submit these findings to the Legislature next year.
  • New York: Recently, Sen. Liz Krueger introduced an ambitious package of reforms to New York's budget process, including S 7347, which requires use of cost benefit analysis as part of the annual tax expenditure report and establishes a sunset schedule for all tax expenditures.

Resources:
MASSPIRG- House Adopts State Spending Website
Progressive States Network - Corporate Transparency in State Budgets
Progressive States Network - Update: Mapping the Progress of Shared Multi-State Agenda
U.S. PIRG - Following the Money: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data