Campaign for Budget Transparency

IMPROVING TRANSPARENCY, IMPROVING ACCOUNTABILITY—The ability to see how government collects and spends money is fundamental to a thriving, participatory democracy.

Let The Public Follow the Money

Public budgets are the most concrete expression of public values and priorities—articulated in dollars and cents. As states grapple with difficult decisions to make budgetary ends meet, opening the state checkbook to the public provides an important tool that allows both citizens and civil servants to make informed choices.

Unfortunately, too often public subsidies, tax breaks or special deals are granted to powerful corporate interests at the taxpayers’ expense. When this happens, Massachusetts residents are stuck with the tab, or public resources and services end up threatened.

Transparency in government spending checks corruption, promotes fiscal responsibility and allows for greater, more meaningful participation in our democratic system.

MASSPIRG is working to make all government spending and budgeting fully transparent, on an easy-to-use and comprehensive website.

While the Commonwealth has made significant improvements since we started our campaign in providing public access to state spending and revenue on the Transparency Massachusetts website, even earning an A in our Following the Money 2015 report,  there is still more to do, including providing more budget information on all quasi-public agencies, tax expenditures, and municipalities, as well as access to all contracts.

Issue updates

News Release | MASSPIRG | Budget, Food, Tax

Ag Subsidies Pay for 21 Twinkies per Taxpayer, But Only Half of an Apple Apiece

Federal subsidies for commodity crops are subsidizing junk food additives like high fructose corn syrup, enough to pay for 21 Twinkies per taxpayer every year, according to MASSPIRG’s new report, Apples to Twinkies 2012. “This is ridiculous,”  said MASSPIRG’s Legislative Director, Deirdre Cummings. “First, we are giving taxpayer subsidies to mature, profitable industries while struggling with how to reduce the nation’s record level of debt.  That is bad enough, but in addition, the billions of taxpayer supported subsides are then used to subside junk food—even as our childhood obesity rates are going through the roof. With the Farm Bill about to be reauthorized, it’s time to end this waste.”

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News Release | MASSPIRG | Budget, Tax

Recipients of Corporate Tax Breaks Revealed

MASSPIRG praised today’s release by the Department of Revenue detailed information about  who receives some $170 million in certain corporate tax breaks. 

“This is great news,” said Deirdre Cummings, Legislative Director for MASSPIRG, “any investment of public dollars in private enterprises must be held to the highest level of transparency and accountability. The legislature and the Administration should be commended for their leadership in making government spending more transparent and accountable.”

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Media Hit | Tax

Bay State lags in business subsidy successes

Watchdogs say the Bay State’s tax credit program lacks oversight. State subsidies have come under scrutiny in the wake of last year’s failure of Evergreen Solar. Rhode Island taxpayers are on the hook for 38 Studios, which defaulted on a $1.125 million loan payment earlier this month after the firm was lured away from Massachusetts last year by $75 million in loans. Deirdre Cummings of MassPIRG said Massachusetts doesn’t consistently track whether subsidized companies create jobs they promised to when they received multimillion-dollar tax credits. “These are taxpayer dollars. We have to be able to show it was a worthwhile investment, and there is absolutely no way to know,” she said.

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News Release | MASSPIRG | Budget

Deirdre Cummings, Legislative Director, Comments on Recently Approved Tax Expenditure Commission Report

MASSPIRG commends the work of the bi-partisan Tax  Expenditure Commission and the approval of their final report today which will be filed in the legislature before April 30, 2012.

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Media Hit | Tax

Liberty Mutual critics decry executive’s pay package

The revelation that Liberty Mutual paid chairman Edmund F. “Ted’’ Kelly about $200 million during the past four years has angered some customers and watchdog groups. MASSPIRG's Deirdre Cummings provides her insight.

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News Release | MASSPIRG | Budget, Tax

Effort to Close Tax Breaks for Big Oil Fails in US Senate

U.S. Senate votes down S.B. 940 known as the Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act on May 17, 2011.

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News Release | MASSPIRG | Budget, Tax

House Approves Tax Subsidy Transparency and Accountability Reform

In the first day of the FY2012 state budget debate, the House adopted reforms to improve the transparency and accountability of tax subsidies.

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News Release | MASSPIRG | Budget, Tax

Off-Shore Tax Havens Cost MA Taxpayers $608 a Year

Major corporations avoid a total of as much as $100 billion a year in federal taxes by “off-shoring” their US profits. Massachusetts taxpayers are left footing the bill.

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News Release | MASSPIRG | Budget, Tax

Groups call for Transparency and Accountability of Corporate Tax Breaks

Local, state and national groups call for greater accountability and transparency of corporate tax breaks at a State House hearing.

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News Release | MASSPIRG | Budget, Tax

Massachusetts Earns a “B+” in Annual Report on Transparency of Government Spending

Massachusetts gets a “B+” when it comes to openness about government spending according to new report, Following the Money 2011: How the States Rank on Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data.

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News Release | MASSPIRG

BOSTON -- Too many corporations dodge both state and federal taxes by shifting U.S. earnings to subsidiaries in offshore tax havens. However, a bill introduced on Beacon Hill could help the state recoup $699 million dollars even without further reforms from Congress. The bill, HD 1089, An Act relative to tax havens and complete reporting, filed by Representative Josh Cutler (Duxbury), would move the state to a “Complete Reporting” system, eliminating loopholes that allow companies to book profits made in the state offshore.

Report | MASSPIRG

Every year, corporations use complicated schemes to shift U.S. earnings to subsidiaries in offshore tax havens—countries with minimal or no taxes—in order to reduce their state and federal income tax liability by billions of dollars. This new report outline how states can prevent this practice. 

Blog Post

New story in the Boston Globe today found at least 19 "quasi-public" agencies in Massachusetts failed to publish millions of dollars in payroll and spending data on the state's transparency website as required by a MASSPIRG backed 2010 law that mandated the public disclosures. 

Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund

Massachusetts received a “B-” for its government spending transparency website, according to “Following the Money 2018: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data,” the eighth report of its kind.

News Release | US PIRG

Below is a statement from U.S. PIRG Program Advocate Michelle Surka on the proposed House tax bill's impacts on our debt:

“The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, introduced this morning in the House, is an exercise in fiscal recklessness, exploding the budget deficit while failing to close the biggest tax loopholes and relying on gimmicks to obscure the impact on the national debt. Rather than make prudent trade-offs to achieve the President's promised tax cuts, this bill twists itself into knots attempting to distract from the bottom line: it will add trillions to our deficit."

Budget | U.S. PIRG

Blueprint for tomorrow

Our report highlights which investments will alleviate the most dire problems America faces as a result of crumbling or outdated infrastructure.

 
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