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The Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) called for public comment on proposed rules for reporting on tax abatements that could require states and localities to achieve new levels of checkbook level transparency around economic development programs. Across the U.S. these programs represent tens of billions of dollars in subsidies, often granted with little transparency or accountability for results. In our comment letter to GASB, US PIRG made a few suggestions for amendments that would further strengthen the proposed GASB standards.
Right now, there are no standards for reporting economic subsidies on the state or local level. As we’ve seen through our work on the annual Following the Money reports, state officials tell us they struggle to accurately and consistently report the numbers around these programs. From obstacles relating to intra-governmental communication to confusion about what should be best practice for reporting subsidy data, states need guidance around this kind of accounting. Officials need to know that if they take steps to show how much public money is dedicated to these subsidies, they will be able to resist criticism from special interests by pointing to generally accepted standards. The new proposed GASB rules are a great step, but US PIRG calls on the Board to hold states and localities to an even higher standard.
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