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, Tax

Off Shore Tax Havens Cost Average Mass. Taxpayers $1,542 a Year

With Tax Day approaching, it’s a good time to be reminded of where our tax dollars are going. MASSPIRG  released a new study which revealed that the average Massachusetts  taxpayer in 2012 would have to shoulder an extra $1,542 in taxes to make up for the revenue lost due to the use of offshore tax havens by corporations and wealthy individuals.

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Report | MASSPIRG | Budget, Tax

Picking Up the Tab 2013

Off Shore Tax Havens Cost Average Massachusetts Taxpayers $1,542 a Year.

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Media Hit | Budget

Report: Bay State website gets good transparency grade

Massachusetts ranked #2 in making state spending transparent.

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News Release | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Budget

MA Receives an “A-” in Annual Report on Transparency of Government Spending

 

“State governments 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 Deirdre Cummings, Legislative Director of MASSPIRG. “Massachusetts’ spending website is one of the best in the country when it comes to making state spending transparent and accessible.”

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Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Budget

Following the Money 2013

Every year, state governments spend tens of billions of dollars through contracts with private entities for goods and services, subsidies to encourage economic development, grants, and other forms of spending. Accountability and public scrutiny are necessary to ensure that state funds are well spent.

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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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Report | MASSPIRG | Budget, Financial Reform, Tax

Tax Shell Game

Many of the largest corporations in our country hide profits made in the United States in offshore shell companies and sham headquarters in order to avoid paying billions in federal taxes.

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Failing the Bailout

Following the collapse of major financial institutions Congress enacted a sweeping $700 billion taxpayer-financed bailout of the financial sector.

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Report | Budget, Tax

Transparency.GOV 2.0

The ability to see how government uses the public purse is fundamental to democracy. Budget transparency checks corruption, bolsters public confidence in government, and promotes fiscal responsibility.

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Forgiving Fraud and Failure

Companies with immediate past histories of shoddy work and fraudulent practices are being rewarded with billions of dollars in federal contracts. The data suggest that the process by which the federal government currently spends $422 billion per year in taxpayer funds is insufficient to ensure that the American people receive good quality for goods and services purchased for the American people.

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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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