(KFYI News) – The latest annual report by a consumer and government watchdog group gives Arizona a 'B' grade when it comes to transparency in government spending.
The national report, released by the Arizona PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) Education Fund, shows significant improvement by our state since the first report five years ago, when Arizona received an 'F'.
AZ PIRG's Serena Unrein credits the improved grade to the "Open Books" website (http://openbooks/az.gov) which "allows Arizona residents to scrutinize the state's checkbook like we do our own."
However, she says Arizona falls short of an 'A' because it doesn't provide checkbook-level information for all of its top economic development subsidy programs. In fact, state law currently prohibits disclosing the recipients of corporate economic development income tax credits.
Republican State Rep. Darin Mitchell introduced a bill this session to mandate such reporting by the state Department of Revenue. The measure passed the House unanimously, but was voted down in a Senate committee. He plans to try again next year.
Scot Mussi of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club says tracking economic development grants are a key piece of the transparency puzzle. "In the last couple of years, Arizona has given out nearly $100 million in economic development tax credits," he says, "and it's nearly impossible to evaluate the merits of the program because we have no idea where the money is going and how it's being spent."
The states with the most comprehensive transparency websites are Indiana, Florida, Oregon, Texas, Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont, and Wisconsin. The report notes that whether a state is dominated by Republicans or Democrats has no impact on their levels of transparency in spending.