Evaluation of Pennsylvania state website
- 1 Website evaluation
- 2 U.S. PIRG rating
- 3 State Integrity Investigation
- 4 Pennsylvania state lobbying
- 5 Transparency Legislation
- 6 Resources
- 7 Salaries
- 8 Pensions
- 9 Public Records
- 10 External links
- 11 References
The Pennsylvania State Senate stated in 2011 that it was a goal to have a state budget database for citizens to be able to use for information on the budget and budget process, maintained by the Treasurer's Office. In 2012, the state launched a transparency oriented website, PennWATCH, in order to publish detailed expenditure information, budgets, and public employee salaries.
This website was reviewed on March 12, 2013.
- Budget (5/10 pts)
- Current budget with detailed graphs is available on PennWATCH.
- Past budgets are posted from 2006 to the present year.
- Governor's proposed budget is available.
- The enacted budget is posted.
- Appropriations bills are posted along with a calendar of hearings.
- Tax information is available.
- Usability (5/10 pts)
- Executive (6/10 pts)
- Legislative (6/10 pts)
- Offices and agencies are listed, with contact information on their pages.
- Legislative salaries are available on PennWATCH under "Senate" and "House of Representatives."\
- Committee assignments are online.
- The Department of State Elections office provides a calendar of key election dates.
- Statement of Financial Interests are available for officials through a search.
- Ethics (6/10 pts)
- Contracts (4/10 pts)
- Bid opportunities and contracts are posted.
- Lobbying (3/10 pts)
- Lobbyist lists and reports are posted.
- Public records (10/10 pts)
- Compensation (10/10 pts)
- Salaries are available on PennWATCH including total compensation.
- There are no charts and graphs tracking state-level spending and revenue across years available.
- A check register is not available for state level offices and agencies.
- No information is available on Taxpayer-funded lobbying.
U.S. PIRG rating
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, focused on the availability of separate spending-related items; they do not need to be in a central database.
|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 required 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.
Pennsylvania received an overall grade of C-, or 71%. It ranked 18 out of the 50 states.
|Public Access to Information||B-|
|State Budget Processes||F|
|State Civil Service Management||B-|
|State Pension Fund Management||B-|
|Ethics Enforcement Agencies||C+|
|State Insurance Commissions||C|
Pennsylvania state lobbying
- See also: Pennsylvania government sector lobbying
- See also: Pennsylvania transparency legislation
|Recovery Pennsylvania||State||Stimulus tracking||2011||http://www.recovery.pa.gov/portal/server.pt/community/recovery_pa_gov/5994|
|Campaign Finance||State||Campaign finance and lobbyist disclosure||2011||http://www.campaignfinance.state.pa.us/CFHome.aspx|
|Pennsylvania Votes||Commonwealth Foundation||Look up your Legislator\'s Votes||2010||http://www.pennsylvaniavotes.org/|
|Follow the Money||National Institute on Money in Politics||Campaign contributions||2010||http://www.followthemoney.org/database/state_overview.phtml?y=2010&s=PA|
- See also: Pennsylvania state government salary
State and Local Employees
In July 2010, when the state was facing furloughs of layoffs, Gov. Rendell said that he strongly supported legislation to restructure pension benefits for future public-sector unions were due a 4 percent pay increase that year. Rendell proposed that to prevent furloughs or layoffs, the unions should accept no pay increase. He conceded, however, that "[t]here is virtually no chance of that going through."
According to 2008 Census data, the state of Pennsylvania and local governments in the state employed a total of 696,616 people. Of those employees, 529,454 were full-time employees receiving a net pay of $2,152,542,653 per month and 167,162 were part-time employees paid $178,554,748 per month. More than 57% of those employees, or 399,454 employees, were in education or higher education.
State Employee Benefits
Paid Time Off
State employees receive the following 11 paid holidays:
- New Year's Day
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
- Presidents' Day
- Memorial Day
- Independence Day
- Labor Day
- Columbus Day
- Veterans' Day
- Thanksgiving Day
- Day After Thanksgiving
- Christmas Day
Full-time employees working a 40 hour work week earn annual leave as follows:
|Time of service||Rate of accumulation||Maximum annual leave entitlement per year|
|Up to 3 years||3.85% of all hours paid||80 hours (10 days)|
|Over 3 years to 15 years inclusive||5.77% of all hours paid||120 hours (15 days)|
|Over 15 years to 25 years inclusive||7.70% for all hours paid||160 hours (20 days)|
|Over 25 years||10% for all hours paid||208 hours (26 days)|
Employees receive a personal leave day in their first full year of employment in a full-time position; employees earn two personal leave days in their second year and four personal days (one per quarter) in their third year of employment.
The Commonwealth allows employees to accumulate sick leave at a rate of 5% of their regular paid hours, which amounts to 13 days per year for employees working 40 hour work weeks.
All permanent employees who are continuously scheduled to work are eligible for the Commonwealth's life insurance coverage which is equal to the employee's salary up to $40,000.
Optional insurance available to state employees includes Term Life Insurance, Dependent Term Life Insurance, Long Term Disability Insurance and Long Term Care Insurance, Auto Insurance and Home Insurance.
- Family Care Account Program (FCAP) provides employees with the opportunity, through payroll deductions, to use pre-tax income to pay for family care expenses that are incurred to enable them to work. This program allows employees to pay for expenses incurred for eligible employment-related care for children, disabled elder parents and other dependents with salary exempt from federal income and social security taxes.
- Health Savings Account gives employees the opportunity to use pre-tax dollars to pay for health-related expenses.
- See also: Pennsylvania public pensions
Responding to massive increases in state payments for the public pensions, Gov. Ed Rendell signed a bill to cut Pennsylvania pension benefits for newly hired state workers and school employees in November 2010. The new law bought time for the state treasury and school districts to fund the two major public-sector pension plans. Besides cutting benefits for new hires, the law doubled to 10 years the vesting period for new employees. The bill also created an independent fiscal office in the legislature.
Prior to the reforms initiated by Rendell, the state failed to pay the annual recommended amount to the two state pension plans for years. The annual recommended contribution is the yearly amount required to cover administrative costs, the cost of benefits employees earned in a given year and the cost of paying off any unfunded liabilities. Pennsylvania increased benefits for state and school employees and lawmakers in 2001, added a cost-of-living raise for retirees in 2002, and then reduced contributions to the funds and spread costs out over a decade to soften the blow of market declines.
The Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS) suffered a 28.7% investment loss in 2008, the worst of any state according to a study by the Pew Center on the States. The Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System was also hit hard, posting losses of 26.5%. A 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 Pennsylvania pension fund will run out of money in 2023.
Over 500,000 people participate in the Public School Employees' Retirement System.
|Plan||Current Value||Percentage funded||Unfunded liabilities||Total state employees||Avg. pension|
|State Employees Retirement System||$35 billion||84.4 percent||$5.6 billion||210,000 active members||$20,000|
|Public School Employees Retirement System||$49 billion||79.2 percent||$19 billion||272,000 active members||$22,000|
- See also: Pennsylvania sunshine lawsuits
The Pennsylvania Right to Know Act, also known as the Pennsylvania Sunshine Law, is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of governmental bodies in Pennsylvania.
The Pennsylvania Sunshine Act legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted.
Prior to 2002, the Pennsylvania Right to Know Act was widely regarded as one of the worst in the country. Before the 2002 law, the requester bore the burden of proving that any particular state or local government record could be disclosed. The 2002 law that reversed the burden of proof so that the government unit could only decline a request if it could prove that the requested records could not be disclosed. The 2002 law also made access quicker, cheaper, and expanded the nature of records available to embrace electronic technologies. The 2002 law also permitted anonymous requests, prohibited inquiries about the reason for requests, and established appeal avenues and penalties for official obstruction.
Further landmark progress was accomplished in 2008 with a law that "flipped the presumption." Rather than enunciating statute by statute which records were open to the public, the overriding presumption of the 2008 law is that government records are public except for a finite series of exemptions. This new law went into full effect on January 1, 2009 and all state and local government government documents are presumed to be open to the public unless the agency holding them can prove otherwise. (Pennsylvania has approximately 5,000 units of government affected by the 2002 and 2008 laws.)
To learn more about how to make a public records request in this state, please see: Pennsylvania FOIA procedures.
- "Pennsylvania Senate committed to taxpayer database," Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 20, 2011
- PennWATCH, Accessed: January 6, 2013
- PennWATCH, Budget, Accessed January 6, 2013
- PA.gov, "Past Budgets," accessed January 24, 2012
- House Appropriations Committee
- Senate Appropriations Committee
- PennWATCH, Revenue, Accessed: January 6, 2013
- PA.gov Department of Revenue, Accessed January 24, 2012
- PA.gov Pennsylvania Open Government, Accessed January 24, 2012
- PA.gov State Agencies, Accessed January 24, 2012
- Pennsylvania Department of State
- Statement of Financial Interests
- PA.gov State Agencies, Accessed January 24, 2012
- Senate Committee Assignments
- House Committee Assignments
- State Ethics Commission
- Ethics Act
- Ethics Complaints
- PA.gov, "Financial Reports," accessed January 24, 2012
- Performance Reports
- PA.gov State Procurement, Accessed January 24, 2012
- PA.gov Lobbyist Reports, Accessed January 24, 2012
- PA.gov Open Records, Accessed January 24, 2012
- US PIRG, Following the Money: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data, March 14, 2012
- "50 states and no winners," State Integrity Investigation, StateIntegrity.org
- Pennsylvania Corruption Risk Report Card, State Integrity Investigation, StateIntegrity.org
- Pennsylvania on Open Secrets, 2010
- The Washington Post "N.J. Gov. Chris Christie opens NGA meeting with censure of public-sector unions" July 9, 2010
- 2008 Pennsylvania Public Employment U.S. Census Data
- Pennsylvania Government
- Personnel Rules
- Life Insurance
- Voluntary Benefits
- Family Care Account Program
- National Conference of State Legislatures State Employee Health Benefits
- ABC2, Rendell signs Pa. Public Pension Bill, Nov. 24, 2010
- ABC2, Rendell signs Pa. Public Pension Bill, Nov. 24, 2010
- Pittsburgh Live, Day of Reckoning Expected for Pennsylvania Public Pension Plans, April 22, 2010
- Pew Center on the States "The Trillion Dollar Gap" Feb. 2010
- New Mexico, Study: NM state pension plan will run out of money in 13 years, Sept. 9, 2010