Report Gives Arizona B Grade For Spending Transparency

April 08, 2014

An annual report put out by the Public Interest Research Group scores all 50 states on government spending transparency. Arizona's grade was a B.

PIRG's 2014 Following the Money report looked at Arizona’s Open Books website. The website has a search engine that allows people to examine spending and revenue records.  

Arizona scored well for this function, but the state’s grade has been decreasing ever since the open books website started from a score of 92 in 2011 to 84 in 2014. PIRG’s Serena Unrein said this is partly due to higher expectations for states to have what she calls “checkbook level detail.”

"We should be able to scrutinize government spending the way we can examine our own checkbook," Unrein said. "In your own checkbook you can see what payments are going out, who they were paid to and what for."

Arizona’s checkbook is pretty clear, Unrein said, except when it comes to economic development tax credits. These are taxpayer-funded incentives given out to private organizations to create jobs, conduct research and more.

State law currently prohibits the release of these records. Unrein said a change in legislation is needed if Arizona hopes to get its grade back up to an A.