Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Arizona's Checkbook

Posted By on Tue, Feb 16, 2010 at 3:34 PM

checkbook.jpg

Here's a pretty depressing chart that pretty much sums up the miserable state of Arizona's finances.

You'll find it at azcheckbook.com, a new site that tracks Arizona's revenues and expenditures. It's a treasure trove that lets you create your own graphs and pie charts to better understand where money is coming from and where it's going.

It was set up by State Treasurer Dean Martin, who's in the hunt for Gov. Jan Brewer's job. We can't figure out how Martin can look at these numbers and still oppose any new sources of revenue (aka higher taxes), outside of a new tax to cover the cost of AHCCCS, the state's insurance program for low-income Arizonans.

Martin explains on the site:

Welcome to AZCheckbook.com! Each year the State of Arizona spends billions of your tax dollars from hundreds of different sources. As a taxpayer, you deserve to know what the state is doing with your money. This website is the result of two years work to provide the greatest level of transparency in Arizona history and is a reflection of my commitment to provide Arizona taxpayers with a searchable, user-friendly website that discloses all revenues and expenditures for Arizona State government.

AZCheckbook.com provides daily status and monthly comparisons

of the current status of the "State's Checkbook" called the State Operating Cash Balance. At the top of every page is a snapshot of the daily total deposits and withdrawals from the State's Operating Account. If this number is negative, the State Operating funds are out of money and we are selling "IOU's" called Treasurer's Warrant Notes in order to raise the cash needed to pay bills. We currently have $700 million in an external "line of credit" and another $500 million internal capacity that will be tapped before any IOU's would need to be sent out to the general public. (Please note that as Treasurer, I run the bank for the State of Arizona, and just as your bank cannot stop you from writing a check when you have no money in your account, we cannot prevent the Governor and Legislature from spending money.) Daily Operating Cash Balance data is available from July 2009, and average monthly Operating Cash Balance is available since July 1990 (prior records are not available).

AZCheckbook.com also provides you with detailed information on how the State is spending your money, and how much they are receiving from all sources, including the federal government. For the first time in Arizona history we are providing online to the public in an easy to read and search format the same data that is normally locked away in arcane computer systems. This data is just as it appears in the official state accounting system and will eventually become part of the Annual Financial Report for the State of Arizona. AZCheckbook.com contains hundreds of accounting categories for revenues and expenditures (objects) and a more detailed breakdown under each object (comptroller objects). For example, a major category would be personal services (salaries). The breakdown below salaries would be regular salaries, overtime salaries, etc. This data is provided on a statewide and by agency basis. This spending data is captured each month from data collected and stored by the General Accounting Office of the Department of Administration. It will be updated each month as new data is available.

When this project was started we began capturing the data you see currently. Once we had the user interface built, we asked for historical data to be provided for previous years. Unfortunately the Governors General Accounting office would only provide copies of the data for a fee of $800 for each and every additional month requested. This project has been a labor of love by our staff and has been completed without any special appropriation or budget. Unfortunately we have no appropriation to pay nearly $10,000 per year for this information. We will continue to capture this data monthly going forward, but until the fee is waived or an appropriation is provided, year over year comparisons will be limited to fiscal year 2009 and forward.

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