an effort to create searchable online databases for government expenditures
a tool to highlight the hypocrisy of tax hikers
Constitutional or statutory requirement to rein in growth of revenues end expenditures
a commitment made by elected officials and candidates for elected office never to raise taxes
Raising the bar for tax increases
Requiring a cool-off period for all bills with a fiscal impact
pork-barrel spending - the broken windows of the budget
We might hope to see the finances of the Union as clear and intelligible as a merchant's books, so that every member of Congress, and every man of any mind in the Union should be able to comprehend them, to investigate abuses, and consequently, to control them.
Thomas Jefferson, 1802
The Center for Fiscal Accountability, founded in 2008, is a project of Americans for Tax Reform, a national taxpayer advocacy organization.
Accountability - the “process that requires us to disclose fully and truthfully our performance to those who are entitled to know,” according to the Honorable Maurice McTigue – is one of the cornerstones of the Republican form of government.
The key to accountability is access to pertinent information.
Prior to the advent of the Internet, full disclosure as required by the aforementioned definition of accountability might have been achieved by providing access to hard copies of government records at request. However, the maturing of the Internet has changed the rules of the game and necessitates a review of some of the concepts that are required to achieve accountability e.g. “disclosure,” and ultimately “transparency”. The technology to take the public’s right to know to the next level has arrived.
In the past, there was no alternative to submitting formal requests to government entities to receive information on government activities. Residents who did not live in close proximity to Washington, DC or their state capital were at a disadvantage, since visiting the archives in the nation’s capital or the state capitol was the only way to obtain detailed information.
Today, the tools to hold government more accountable to its constituents are at our fingertips. However, particularly in the area of government finance, government is lagging behind in subjecting itself to public scrutiny. As such, it comes to no surprise that in January 2008, a poll commissioned by the Association of Government Accountants and conducted by Harris Interactive found that while “the public overwhelmingly believes government has the obligation to report and explain how the government generates and spends its money, (…) government is not meeting expectations.” “Improved reporting” and “providing open disclosure of spending” were among the most frequent answers to the question on how government could improve.
Consequently, CFA will continue and build on Americans for Tax Reform’s efforts to increase transparency in government spending by creating online searchable databases for government expenditures at all levels of government. So far, in the wake of passage of the federal legislation, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 (which brought us
www.USAspending.gov, a website that allows taxpayers to track federal grants and contracts over the amount of $25,000) twelve states have passed legislation to create similar websites, and several governors and state constitutional officers have also taken action.
The Center sees its role not only as an advocacy organization, but also as a clearinghouse for information, and works with lawmakers, members of the Executive branch, taxpayer activists and think tanks to use various tools and approaches to hold government more accountable to taxpayers, and to help eliminate fraud, waste and abuse, to create a more efficient, more limited government.
The Center also calculates the Cost of Government Day. Previously a project line of the Americans for Tax Reform Foundation, the annual study calculates the date of the calendar year, counting from January 1, on which the average American has earned enough in cumulative gross income to pay for his or her share of government spending (total federal, state, and local) plus the cost of regulation.
The annual Cost of Government Day Report will be compiled in the context of the Thomas Jefferson Fellowship, which will be offered to a qualified graduate or under-graduate student with a background in the field of economics interested in the areas of federal and state fiscal and regulatory policy.
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