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Updated Apr 8, 2014 - 4:38 pm

Arizona receives ‘B’ for fiscal transparency

PHOENIX — The results are in: Arizona has received a ‘B’ for its fiscal clarity and one official said it is a marked improvement.

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group released their yearly ratings of each state’s financial transparency and its Arizona chapter announced at the State Capitol Tuesday that Arizona had received a score of 84, good enough for 19th in the county.

Serena Unrein, public interest advocate with the Arizona Public Interest Research Group, said Arizona’s rating showed great improvement from five years ago when the state had a failing grade.

“In Arizona, when we first started looking at state spending transparency, received an ‘F’ for spending transparency because we didn’t have a very good online transparency website,” Unrein said.

Since that time the state has introduced openbooks.az.gov that provides free online government spending and financial data. Unrein said technology has greatly helped government transparency.

“As technology has improved, the ability to track government finances online has also improved,” she said. “We absolutely should be able to track government spending online as well and, to the state of Arizona’s credit, they’ve launched a pretty great transparency website and have continued to improve that site over the years.”

Unrein said while the state has improved, there is still room to grow, particularly when it comes to disclosures of state tax credits given to businesses as incentives.

“I think that it’s reasonable to expect that government discloses what kind of incentives they are giving to corporations for economic development purposes,” she said. “As long as it doesn’t compromise a business’ secrets, then that information should be disclosed up front so tax payers know where their tax dollars are going.”

Currently Arizona prohibits the disclosure of tax credits given to businesses by the state as economic incentives, and a bill introduced by House Rep. Darin Mitchell (R-13) seeking annual disclosures of those tax credits failed in the Senate Commerce Committee after passing unanimously passing the House.

“We got a B, but we can do better … just like when your kids come home with B’s, you know they can do better and that’s what we were trying to do this year,” Mitchell said. “Next year, I have every intention of running this bill or a similar legislation that will make corporate tax credit transparency a reality.”

The state with the highest score in the report was Indiana with an A-minus at 94 points. California was the worst on the list with a failing score of 34.

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