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Evaluation of Texas state website

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Texas.gov is the website for the state of Texas.

Website evaluation

Grade2.pngD
Budget P
Partial.png
Usability P
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Legislative P
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Executive P
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Ethics
{{{1}}}
Audits P
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Contracts P
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Lobbying P
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Public records
{{{1}}}
Compensation N
600px-Red x.png
State agency websitesGuide.png
Transparency grading process


This website was reviewed on March 12, 2013.

The good

  • Budget (7/10 pts)
    • Proposed budgets are posted.[1]
    • Biennial budgets are posted.[2]
    • Appropriations bills are posted.[3]
    • Graphs showing revenue and spending are available. [4]
    • Governor's proposed budgets are posted.[5]
    • Annual reports are available.[5]
    • Enacted budgets are available.[6]
    • Tax information is posted.[7]
  • Usability (5/10 pts)
    • Site offers a search function and drill-down of types of information.
    • Budget data is downloadable and can be loaded online, as well.[8]
  • Executive (4/10 pts)
    • Agencies are listed with contact information.[9]
    • Salaries for executive officers are posted.[10]
  • Legislative (4/10 pts)
    • Legislators are listed with contact information.[11][12]
    • Legislators' sponsored bills are listed.[12][11]
    • Party affiliation is noted.
    • Committee assignments are noted.[13]
  • Ethics (10/10 pts)
    • Ethics information is posted.[14]
    • Process for submitting and ethics complaint is outlined.[15]
    • Sworn complaints that are not confidential are posted.[16]
  • Audits (4/10 pts)
    • Audits are posted for several years.[17]
  • Contracts (8/10 pts)
    • A master index of all contracts is provided online.[18]
    • Procedures and rules for contracts are available.[19]
    • State contracts are posted.[20]
  • Lobbying (4/10 pts)
    • Lobby reports are posted.[21]
    • Registered lobbyists and clients are listed.[22]
  • Compensation (0/10 pts)

The bad

U.S. PIRG rating

The U.S. PIRG rated the state website an "A" on providing online access to government spending data, with a score of 98 out of 100.[26]

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.[27]

Texas received an overall grade of D+, or 68%. It ranked 27 out of the 50 states.[28]

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

Transparency Legislation

Resources

Resource Run by Includes Year URL
Texas Transparency State-Window on State Government State spending by agency, category, purchase code, vendors, and travel. 2011 http://www.texastransparency.org/moneygoes/
Texas Budget Source Texas Public Policy Foundation Info and analysis on revenues and expenditures at: state, city, school district, toll and transit authorities, and special districts. 2011 http://www.texasbudgetsource.com/
Financial Allocation Study for Texas (FAST) State-Window on State Government Public Education spending 2011 http://www.fastexas.org/background/index.php#ex6
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: A Texas Eye on the Dollars State-Window on State Government Tracks federal stimulus spending 2011 http://www.window.state.tx.us/recovery/
Texas Education Agency Texas Education Agency School District Profiles 2010 http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/perfreport/snapshot/
Follow the Money National Institute on Money in Politics Campaign contributions 2010 http://www.followthemoney.org/database/state_overview.phtml?y=2010&s=TX

Salaries

State and Local Employees

According to 2008 Census data, the state of Texas and local governments in the state employed a total of 1,522,294 people.[29] Of those employees, 1,272,416 were full-time employees receiving a net pay of $4,561,363,066 per month and 249,878 were part-time employees paid $269,315,916 per month.[29] More than 62% of those employees, or 953,262 employees, were in education or higher education.[29]

The average state agency employee's salary is $37,365.[30]

Chart of top energy employees salaries
Even though public utilities traditionally do not release salary information, CPS Energy in San Antonio, recently released its top salaries.[31] The report revealed the top 18 executives earn more than $4.2 million collectively, with the CEO Doyle Beneby earning a base salary of $360,000.[32]

Bryan Texas Utilities will also release its executives salary data, after debating it for more than a year.<re>[http://www.texaswatchdog.org/2010/12/bryan-texas-utilities-to-release-executives-salary/1292363484.column "Texas Watchdog,

Texas' prison, parole and probation officers collectively make $2.8 billion.[33]

In Texas, it is illegal for the government to enter into a formal bargaining relationship with the public sector.[34]

State Employee Benefits

The State of Texas provides employees with many benefits and asserts that the total value of its employee benefits package is equal to an individual's base salary plus 33 percent.[30]

The value of time not worked (e.g., sick leave, vacation, holidays) amounts to $5,879 per year per employee.[30]

Holidays

Some holidays are observed by all employees and others are optional. State offices are scheduled to be open on partial staffing holidays and optional holidays. An employee is entitled to observe optional holidays in lieu of any partial staffing holiday on which state offices are required to be open to conduct public business.

  • New Year's Day
  • Confederate Heroes Day (partial staffing holiday)
  • Martin Luther Kind, Jr. Day
  • President's Day
  • Texas Independence Day (partial staffing holiday)
  • Cesar Chavez Day (Optional Holiday)
  • Good Friday (Optional Holiday)
  • San Jacinto Day (partial staffing holiday)
  • Memorial Day
  • Emancipation Day In Texas (partial staffing holiday)
  • Independence Day
  • Lyndon Baines Johnson Day (partial staffing holiday)
  • Labor Day
  • Rosh Hashanah (Optional Holiday)
  • Yom Kippur (Optional Holiday)
  • Veteran's Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Friday after Thanksgiving
  • Days before and after Christmas
  • Christmas

Vacation Leave

A full-time employee will accrue a minimum of 8 hours per month of annual leave. A part-time employee will accrue leave on a proportionate basis. The hours accrued will be based on total years of state employment. Vacation with pay may not be granted until the employee has had continuous employment with the state for 6 months, although credit accrues during that period.[35]

Sick Leave

Full-time state employees earn 8 hours of sick leave per month. Employees who are parents, or stand in a parental relation, of a child who is a student attending a grade from pre-K-12 may use up to 8hours of sick leave each calendar year to attend parent-teacher conferences.[35]

Emergency Leave

Employees may take up to 3 days of paid leave in the event of death of an immediate family member.[35]

Insurance

Health

Full-time employees are automatically enrolled in the HealthSelect plan option, and employees have the option of switching to an HMO.[30] Full-time employees selecting individual coverage pay nothing, and only pay when adding a spouse and/or children to their coverage.[30] Under HealthSelect, the state pays $385.38 for an employee with individual coverage up to $753.22 for a member and family.[30]

Part-time employees are not automatically enrolled but may do so with half of the employee's premiums and 25 percent of the employee's dependents’ premiums will be paid by the state.[30]

Employee state health coverage includes prescription drug coverage, $5,000 Basic Group Term Life Insurance with $5,000 of Accidental Death and Dismemberment (AD&D) coverage provided free of charge.[30]

Dental

Employees can select from two different dental plans.[30]

Life

In addition to the life insurance provided with health coverage, employees may purchase supplemental coverage of optional term life insurance at one or two times the employee's annual salary.[30]

Supplemental insurance

Voluntary accidental death and dismemberment insurance is also available.[30] Employees may also elect to obtain short term and long term disability insurance.[30] Long term care insurance is another option for employees.[30]

Other Benefits

  • TexFlex - flexible spending accounts allow employees to pay for planned out-of-pocket health and day care expenses with pre-tax dollars.[30]
  • Longevity pay - employees receive $20.00 per month for each 2 years of service, with a maximum of $420.00 available.[35]
  • Employee Assistance Program

Pensions

Unlike many other states, Texas' pension systems are in good shape. According to a report filed by The Pew Center on the States, Texas has an unfunded liability as a percentage of payroll of 35 percent for its public pensions. While on better footing than many states, Pew reports tat Texas needs improvement in order to be fiscally sustainable.[36]

The Texas Pension Review Board placed an unprecedented 18 public retirement plans on its watch list, a warning that the plans have insufficient funds to meet future obligations. Among them are the state’s largest pension systems—the Teacher Retirement System of Texas and the Employees Retirement System of Texas.[37]

According to the Texas Association of Public Employee Retirement Systems, public employee pensions around Texas are reporting strong annualized returns through the first half of 2010.[38] The $104 billion Teacher Retirement System of Texas turned in the best one-year performance among the nation's largest public pension funds as of Sept. 30. The fund had a 12.6 percent one-year return, according to figures released by the pension system.[39] Texas law says no additional benefits can be given to retirees unless the trust fund is fully funded. As of the end of 2010 the Teachers Retirement System still has only 83 cents for every dollar needed to meet long-term obligations to the system's 1.3 million active and retired public school employees.[40]

In Texas dozens of state and local public retirement plans cover government workers, teachers, police and firefighters.[41]

In its 2011-2015 strategic plan, The Texas Pension Review Board[42] set a benchmark to increase the percentage of actuarially-funded defined benefit Texas public retirement systems that are actuarially sound and increase the percentage of pension plan administrators satisfied with educational services.[43]

According to the Texas Association of Public Employee Retirement Systems, public employee pensions around Texas are reporting strong annualized returns through the first half of 2010.[44] The $104 billion Teacher Retirement System of Texas turned in the best one-year performance among the nation's largest public pension funds as of Sept. 30. The fund had a 12.6 percent one-year return, according to figures released by the pension system.[45] Texas law says no additional benefits can be given to retirees unless the trust fund is fully funded. As of the end of 2010 the Teachers Retirement System still has only 83 cents for every dollar needed to meet long-term obligations to the system's 1.3 million active and retired public school employees.[46] The fund had a 12.6 percent one-year return, according to figures released Thursday by the pension system.

Public Records

The Public Information Act of Texas (TPIA) is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of government bodies at all levels in Texas. Texas Government Code, Chapter 552, gives citizens the right to access records at various levels of Texas government, without having to declare your purpose in doing so. Until the law was formalized, the ability of a citizen to gain access to public records was at the discretion of the custodian of the records, except in those cases where records custodians were forbidden to allow access.

The Texas Open Meetings Act legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted.

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

Worker's compensation

An audit of the Department of Insurance found that worker's comp enforcement have been open for an average of 467 days.[47] The audit also found:[47]

  • Monthly reviews of worker comp cases were skipped a majority of the time.
  • Reports monitoring workers’ comp enforcement cases contained inaccurate or duplicate case information.
  • As of February, 61 pending cases were assigned to individuals who had left the workers’ comp division in 2009.
  • Enforcement teams at the Department of Insurance, the workers’ comp enforcement team closes 82 percent of cases with a warning letter and no monetary penalty compared to property or casualty insurance which usually closes at 45 percent.

The Department of Insurance has even had meeting advising companies on how to avoid paying worker's comp., by advising employees to resign first.[47]

External links

References

  1. Texas.gov "Governor's Proposed Budgets," accessed January 25, 2012
  2. Texas.gov "Legislative Budget Board," accessed January 25, 2012
  3. Legislative Budget Board
  4. Economic Outlook
  5. 5.0 5.1 Budget, Planning and Policy
  6. [1]
  7. Texas.gov "Taxes," accessed January 25, 2012
  8. [2]
  9. Texas.gov "Agency Finder," accessed January 25, 2012
  10. Salaries of State Executive Officers
  11. 11.0 11.1 Texas.gov "Senate Members," accessed January 25, 2012
  12. 12.0 12.1 Texas.gov "House Members," accessed January 25, 2012
  13. Committee Membership
  14. Texas.gov "Ethics Commission," accessed January 25, 2012
  15. Sworn Complaint
  16. Sworn Complaint Orders
  17. Texas.gov "CAFR," accessed January 25, 2012
  18. Master Index of All Contracts
  19. State of Texas Contracts
  20. Texas.gov "Contracts," accessed January 25, 2012
  21. Texas.gov "Lobby Reports," accessed January 25, 2012
  22. Lobby Lists and Reports
  23. Texas.gov "Public Information Handbook," accessed January 25, 2012
  24. Texas.gov "Open Records Requests," accessed January 25, 2012
  25. Texas.gov "Government Code Chapter 556," accessed January 25, 2012
  26. US PIRG, Following the Money: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data, March 14, 2012
  27. "50 states and no winners," State Integrity Investigation, StateIntegrity.org
  28. Texas Corruption Risk Report Card, State Integrity Investigation, StateIntegrity.org
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 2008 Texas Public Employment U.S. Census Data
  30. 30.00 30.01 30.02 30.03 30.04 30.05 30.06 30.07 30.08 30.09 30.10 30.11 30.12 30.13 2010 New Employee Benefits Guide
  31. Texas Watchdog, CPS Energy discloses top salaries, promises openness, Sept 7, 2010
  32. My San Antonio, CPS pays 18 execs average of $233,000, Sept. 1, 2010
  33. The Dallas Morning News "How bad is the budget crunch?" Oct. 24, 2010
  34. Reuters "Several U.S. states consider union limits" Feb. 25, 2011
  35. 35.0 35.1 35.2 35.3 Texas Employee Benefits
  36. http://downloads.pewcenteronthestates.org/The_Trillion_Dollar_Gap_final.pdf/ 'Pew Center on the States'. The Trillion Dollar Gap: Underfunded State Retirement Systems and the Road to Reform, February 2010]
  37. 'Deloitte', Pension Reform: Paying for Tomorrow
  38. 'TEXPERS' Texas Pension Plans Report Strong Returns, September 2, 2010
  39. 'Houston Chronicle', Pension Fund Bonuses Upset Some Retired Teachers, December 10, 2010
  40. 'Houston Chronicle', Pension Fund Bonuses Upset Some Retired Teachers, December 10, 2010
  41. 'Deloitte', Pension Reform: Paying for Tomorrow
  42. [3]
  43. 'Texas Pension Review Board' 2011-2015 Strategic Plan
  44. 'TEXPERS' Texas Pension Plans Report Strong Returns, September 2, 2010
  45. 'Houston Chronicle', Pension Fund Bonuses Upset Some Retired Teachers, December 10, 2010
  46. 'Houston Chronicle', Pension Fund Bonuses Upset Some Retired Teachers, December 10, 2010
  47. 47.0 47.1 47.2 Texas Watchdog, Auditors slams state's management of worker's comp, July 29, 2010