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 EDUCATION FUND | Budget, Tax

Massachusetts Receives "A" in Annual Report on Transparency of Government Spending

Massachusetts received an ‘A’ when it comes to government spending transparency.

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Report | MASSPIRG EDUCATION FUND | Budget, Tax

Following the Money 2015: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data

Every year, state governments spend hundreds of billions of dollars through contracts for goods and services, subsidies to encourage economic development, and other expenditures. Accountability and public scrutiny are necessary to ensure that the public can trust that state funds are spent as well as possible.

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News Release | MASSPIRG | Budget, Tax

MASSPIRG PRAISES BIPARTISAN BILL REINTRODUCTION PROHIBITING TAX WRITE-OFFS FOR WRONGDOING

Today in Washington DC, U.S. Senate leaders Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Jack Reed (D-RI) reintroduced The Government Settlement Transparency and Reform Act, which would restrict the ability for corporations to reap massive tax write-offs from payments made to settle allegations of misconduct or criminal wrongdoing.  

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News Release | MASSPIRG EDUCATION FUND | Tax

Study: 70% of Fortune 500 Companies Used Tax Havens in 2013

Tax loopholes encouraged more than 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies – including some companies headquartered in Massachusetts – to maintain subsidiaries in offshore tax havens as of 2013, according to “Offshore Shell Games,” released today by MASSPIRG Education Fund and Citizens for Tax Justice.

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Report | MASSPIRG EDUCATION FUND | Tax

Offshore Shell Games

Tax loopholes encouraged more than 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies – including some companies headquartered in Massachusetts – to maintain subsidiaries in offshore tax havens. Collectively, the companies reported booking nearly $2 trillion offshore for tax purposes, with just 30 companies accounting for 62 percent of the total, or $1.2 trillion.

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News Release | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Budget, Tax

Offshore Tax Dodging Blows a $1.6 Billion Hole in Massachusetts Budget

With Massachusetts in the midst of a budget crisis, MASSPIRG, joined by business leaders and elected officials, released a new study revealing that Massachusetts lost $1.6 billion due to offshore tax dodging in 2012. Many of America’s wealthiest individuals and largest corporations, including Wells Fargo, Citigroup, McDonalds, Target, Costco, Exxon Mobil, Intel, and Coca-Cola, and Sears  use tax loopholes to shift profits made in America to offshore tax havens, where they pay little to no taxes.

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Media Hit | Budget, Tax

Bill aims to woo Broadway-bound shows

Deirdre Cummings, the legislative director for the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, does not want any new tax credits until there is a proper study done to determine the value of existing credits.

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Media Hit | Budget, Tax

City faulted on spending transparency

New report grades trancparency Boston's spending. 

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News Release | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Budget, Tax

Transparency In City Spending

New report reviews and grades the nation’s thirty largest cities including Boston on how effectively they allow the public to track budgets, contracting, subsidies, grants and requests for quality-of-life services.

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Media Hit | Tax

Look offshore to avert the fiscal cliff

There are better ways to use $150 billion than having it sit in a P.O. box in the Caymans. With the fiscal cliff on the horizon, closing offshore tax loopholes should be an obvious first step to solving our budget woes.

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Report | Good Jobs First | Budget, Tax

Money for Something

States are spending billions of dollars per year on corporate tax credits, cash grants and other economic development subsidies that often require little if any job creation and lack wage and benefit standards covering workers at subsidized companies. These are the key findings of Money for Something: Job Creation and Job Quality Standards in State Economic Development Subsidy Programs, a 51-state “report card” study published today by Good Jobs First, a non-profit, non-partisan research center based in Washington, DC

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Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Budget, Tax

Tax-Increment Financing

Tax-increment financing (TIF) has been a leading tool for economic development.  When used properly, TIF can promote enduring growth and stronger communities. When used improperly, however, TIF can waste taxpayer resources or channel money to politically favored special interests.

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Report | Budget, Food

Apples to Twinkies

As nutritionists and researchers tell us to cut down on junk food, federal agricultural policy is busily making the problem worse.

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Toward Common Ground

This report documents the joint findings of the National Taxpayers Union and U.S. PIRG, identifying mutually acceptable deficit reductions.

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Tax Shell Game

National elected leaders have recently proposed a range of spending cuts. The vast majority of these cuts come from programs widely viewed as providing broad public benefits or serving national priorities, including programs providing access to higher education, food safety, product safety, clean air and drinking water, and financial sector oversight to protect consumers and avoid future bank bailouts. In addressing the deficit, our leaders should examine all areas of spending where programs do not deliver benefits to the public.

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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 State House legislative committee held a public hearing today on a new bill that could help the state recoup $699 million dollars even without further reforms from Congress. The bill, HB 3787, 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.

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.

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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