Watchdogging Public Spending – NICAR 2015

In March 2015, I gave a talk at the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting conference about how investigative reporters can keep tabs on state and local government borrowing.

My presentation, part of a panel called “Watchdogging Public Spending,” focused on one aspect of government spending that I don’t think gets as much attention as it does: Where governments borrow money to pay for things they shouldn’t be borrowing for in the first place.

A lot of times, it’s through borrowing. Don’t get me wrong, there’s good borrowing – like taking out 30-year debt to build a new hospital, school or bridge. But there’s also plenty of examples of governments taking out debts that make no sense, like a long-term loan to fund today’s operating expenses and stick future taxpayers with the tab.

And that’s just one example. There are plenty more. To learn more about them, take a look at my conference presentation below and see if you can apply some of these reporting tips to your community.