Evaluation of New Jersey state website

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NJ.gov is the website for the state of New Jersey.

Website evaluation

Grade2.pngB-
Budget P
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Usability P
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Legislative P
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Executive P
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Ethics P
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Audits P
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Contracts P
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Lobbying P
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Public records
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Compensation
{{{1}}}
State agency websitesGuide.png
Transparency grading process

In 2011 New Jersey earned a Sunny Awards for having a perfect website transparency score.

This website was reviewed on March 12, 2013.

The good

  • Budget (6/10 pts)
    • Budgets are posted from 1987.[1]
    • The Governor's Budget message is posted.[2][3]
    • Budget documents include reports on tax expenditures. Expenditure data and reports are available.[4]
    • Appropriations bills posted.[5]
    • State tax information is available.[6]
  • Usability (8/10 pts)
    • The site has a search function and is fairly easy to navigate.
    • Consistent use of domains.
    • Information was easy to find.
    • Data is downloadable.
  • Executive (7/10 pts)
    • Elected and administrative officials are listed with contact information.[7] Contact information does not include e-mail.
    • Pension and public payroll information is disclosed in a searchable and downloadable format.[8][9]
  • Legislative (7/10 pts)
    • Pension and public payroll information is disclosed in a searchable and downloadable format.[10][11]
    • Committee membership is posted.[12]
    • Legislative contact information including e-mail and phone for multiple offices is posted. Committee assignments and bill sponsorship is posted. Party affiliation is disclosed.[13]
  • Ethics (6/10 pts)
    • Ethics information is posted.[14]
    • Compliance information is posted.[15]
    • Process for submitting a complaint is posted.[16]
  • Audits (6/10 pts)
    • Audits are posted from at least 2009.[17][18]
  • Contracts (8/10 pts)
    • Bid opportunities are posted.[19]
    • Contracts are posted in a sortable database.[20]
  • Lobbying (4/10 pts)
    • Lobbyist reports are posted.[21]
  • Public records (10/10 pts)
  • Compensation (10/10 pts)
    • Pension and public payroll information is disclosed in a searchable and downloadable format.[23][24]

The bad

U.S. PIRG rating

The U.S. PIRG rated the state website a "C+" on providing online access to government spending data, with a score of 78 out of 100.[25]

The scorecard that U.S. PIRG uses has 13 items and focuses on a separate state website that is searchable at the checkbook level. Sunshine Review, on the other hand, focuses on the availability of separate spending-related items; they do not need to be in a central database.

Item Possible points Notes
Checkbook-level website 30 Detailed expenditure information, including individual payments made to vendors.
Search by vendor 8 Ability to search checkbook-level expenditures by contractor or vendor name.
Search by keyword of activity 8 Ability to search checkbook-level expenditures by type of service or item purchased, category, or government fund.
Search by agency or departments 8 Ability to search checkbook-level expenditures by branch of government.
Contract or summary information 10 A copy of the contract or detailed summary information is included for the expenditures.
Historical expenditures 5 Checkbook-level expenditure data from previous fiscal years.
Grants and economic development incentives information 10 Awardee-specific grants and/or economic development incentives are included in the checkbook tool or elsewhere with specific award amounts.
Downloadable 3 Information can be downloaded for data analysis.
Tax expenditure reports 10 The state's tax expenditure report is linked on the website.
Off-budget agencies 2 Expenditures from quasi-public agencies are included on the website.
City and county budgets 2 Financial information for some local governments is accessible.
ARRA Funding 2 A link is provided to the state's website that tracks funding related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Feedback 2 Website users are capable and encouraged to give feedback about the site.

There are several similarities between the checklists. For both checklists, the searchability of information factors in to how usability is rated. Both checklists have an item relating to contracts, tax information, and the budget. The U.S. PIRG requires information for quasi public entities; Sunshine Review requires information on lobbying, which includes quasi public entities' lobbying activity.

Unlike the Sunshine Review checklist with each check worth one point, different items on the U.S. PIRG checklist merit more or fewer points, depending on the item.

State Integrity Investigation

The 2012 State Integrity Investigation graded state ethics laws according to an "Integrity Index." The index was created by researching 330 "Integrity Indicators" across 14 categories of state government. The report assigned grades based on what laws are on the books, and whether or not they were effectively enforced. The report was a project of The Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity, and Public Radio International.[26]

New Jersey received an overall grade of B+, or 87%. It ranked 1 out of the 50 states.[27]

Category Grade
Public Access to Information B-
Political Financing C+
Executive Accountability B+
Legislative Accountability C+
Judicial Accountability C+
State Budget Processes B-
State Civil Service Management B+
Procurement A
Internal Auditing A
Lobbying Disclosure A
State Pension Fund Management A
Ethics Enforcement Agencies A
State Insurance Commissions B+
Redistricting A

Transparency Legislation

2011

  • State Senator Ronald Rice has introduced a bill that would require private donations to public school systems be transparent. He cites the possibility of strings attached to the money that require transparency.[28]

Resources

Resource Run by Includes Year URL
Transparency Center State Revenue, expenditures, purchasing, public payroll, performance center, debt, executive orders, and budget guide. 2011 http://www.nj.gov/transparency/
Office of Management and Budget State Budget info 2011 http://www.state.nj.us/treasury/omb/
Election Law Enforcement Commission State Lobbying and campaign finance 2011 http://www.elec.state.nj.us/index.htm
Recovery and Reinvestment Plan State Tracks federal stimulus funds 2011 http://www.recovery.nj.gov/
Follow the Money National Institute on Money in Politics Campaign contributions 2010 http://www.followthemoney.org/database/state_overview.phtml?y=2010&s=NJ

Salaries

State and Local Employees

According to 2008 Census data, the state of New Jersey and local governments in the state employed a total of 585,379 people.[29] Of those employees, 465,049 were full-time employees receiving a net pay of $2,459,242,541 per month and 120,330 were part-time employees paid $127,908,865 per month.[29] More than 55% of those employees, or 322,868 employees, were in education or higher education.[29]

State Employee Benefits

Insurance

To be eligible for State employee health coverage, you must work full-time for the State of New Jersey or be an appointed or an elected officer of the State of New Jersey (this includes employees of a State agency or authority and employees of a State college or university). For State employees, full-time normally requires 35 hours per week.[30] Part-time employees of the State are eligible for coverage under NJ DIRECT15 and the Employee Prescription Drug Plan if they are members of a state-administered pension system.[30]

Employees may choose from two plans under NJDirect and two different HMO plans.[30] Employees are eligible to enroll in the Employee Prescription Drug Plan as a separate prescription drug benefit.[30]

Employees are eligible to enroll for dental coverage in the Employee Dental Plans, which offer two basic types of plan: the Dental Expense Plan, and a selection of Dental Plan Organizations (DPOs).[30]

The State of New Jersey gives its employees the following 12 paid holidays:[31]

  • New Year's Day
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • President’s Day
  • Good Friday
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Columbus Day
  • Election Day
  • Veteran’s Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day

Pensions

The New Jersey public pension system covers more than 720,000 current and retired employees.[32] The state's two biggest public pension funds are the Teachers' Pension and Annuity Fund (TPAF) and the Public Employees' Retirement System (PERS).

Gov. Chris Christie skipped a $3 billion payment into the $66.9 billion fund for PERS in his first budget and has said that the state may not be able to make the expected $512 million contribution to the pension system in FY2012. As of June 30, 2009, the New Jersey pension fund that provides benefits for nearly 800,000 current and retired state employees and teachers had a gap of $46 billion between assets and anticipated payouts.[33]

This was a continuation of underfunding by the state legislature.[34] The state has failed to contribute to its pension fund for three budget cycles.[35] By 2008, the total funding level had fallen below 73 percent.[34] Between 2000 and 2006, the state contribution did not exceed 30% of the required contribution.[34] In contrast, in 1998, the system was 106% funded.[34] Since 2004, state and local governments have skipped more than $14 billion in "required" payments into the public employee pensions.[36]

In 2009 the pension funds paid out $3.18 billion more than they took in.[37]

In March 2010, a law barring part-time state workers from the pension system took effect.[33]

A recent study by economists Joshua Rauh of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and Robert Novy-Marx of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business concluded that the New Jersey pension fund will run out of money in 2018.[38] The 2018 date puts New Jersey on target to be the first in the nation to run dry.[35] Should the pension fund run out of money then, the cost the following year would be $14.4 billion, which would be 34% of state revenue.[39]

Public Records

The Open Public Records Act, or OPRA, is the name of the New Jersey law guaranteeing access to public records in the state. OPRA became the state's sunshine law on January 8, 2002, when Donald DiFrancesco signed it. It replaced, and significantly improved, a pre-existing right-to-know law.

The New Jersey Open Public Meetings Act regulates how governments hold public meetings.

To learn more about how to make a public records request in this state, please see: New Jersey FOIA procedures.

External links

References

  1. NJ.gov, "Budget," accessed January 22, 2012
  2. [1]
  3. [2]
  4. [3]
  5. [4]
  6. NJ.gov, "Division of Taxation," accessed January 22, 2012
  7. NJ.gov, "Directory," accessed January 22, 2012
  8. Public payroll
  9. Pension
  10. Public payroll
  11. Pension
  12. Committee Membership
  13. Membership Roster
  14. NJ.gov, "Ethics Commission," accessed January 22, 2012
  15. Compliance
  16. Investigative Process
  17. NJ.gov, "Single Audit," accessed January 22, 2012
  18. NJ.gov, "CAFR," accessed January 22, 2012
  19. NJ.gov, "Business Opportunities," accessed January 22, 2012
  20. NJ.gov, "Purchase Awards," accessed January 22, 2012
  21. NJ.gov, "Governmental Affairs Agents," accessed January 22, 2012
  22. NJ.gov, "OPRA," accessed January 22, 2012
  23. Public payroll
  24. Pension
  25. US PIRG, Following the Money: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data, March 14, 2012
  26. "50 states and no winners," State Integrity Investigation, StateIntegrity.org
  27. New Jersey Corruption Risk Report Card, State Integrity Investigation, StateIntegrity.org
  28. http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2011/03/nj_lawmaker_to_introduce_bill.html "NJ.com" N.J. lawmaker to introduce bill for greater transparency of private donations to public schools March 17,2011]
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 2008 New Jersey Public Employment U.S. Census Data
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 30.3 30.4 Handbook
  31. Holidays
  32. The Philadelphia Inquirer "Christie to announce plan to fix $46 billion shortfall in public pension system" Sept. 13, 2010
  33. 33.0 33.1 Bloomberg "New Jersey May Not Make Pension Payment in Fiscal 2012, Christie Says" July 31, 2010
  34. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named trillion
  35. 35.0 35.1 MSNBC.com "The secret sauce behind bloated state pensions" Nov. 16, 2010
  36. New Jersey Newsroom, Pension Funds Get Even Closer to Busted in 2010, Dec. 27, 2010
  37. New Jersey Newsroom, Pension Funds Get Even Closer to Busted in 2010, Dec. 27, 2010
  38. New Mexico, Study: NM state pension plan will run out of money in 13 years, Sept. 9, 2010
  39. Yahoo! Finance “11 state Pension Funds That May Run Out of Money Oct. 18, 2010