Evaluation of Maine state website

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

Website evaluation

Grade2.pngB
Budget P
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Usability
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Elected Officials
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Administrative Officials
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Ethics
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Audits P
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Contracts
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Lobbying P
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Public records
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Taxes
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Transparency grading process

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


This website was reviewed on January 18, 2012.

The good

  • Usability
    • The site has a search function and is fairly easy to navigate.
    • Link to various state agencies are easy to find.[1]
    • Information is presented in a clear and concise manner, with website written in “plain english” instead of legal jargon.
    • Financial data and legislation are searchable or can be presented in a drilldown database format.
  • Executive Public Officials
    • Contact information for state executive officials is posted.[2]
    • A state phone directory is posted.[3]
  • Legislature
    • Contact information for the legislature is available.[4]
    • Contact info broken down between House and Senate.
    • Party affiliation is disclosed.
    • Committee appointments are online.
    • Bill status and vote history is posted.[5]
  • Budget
    • Current budget is posted and past budgets are archived for at least three years.[6]
    • Governor's proposed budget is posted.
    • Four year budget forecast is posted.
    • Information is available on federal stimulus funding.[7]
    • Information is available on business taxes[8] and individual taxes.[9]
  • Audits
    • Annual financial audits are posted.[10]
    • Audits are archived to 2000.
  • Contracts
    • Request for Proposals are posted.[11]
    • Current contracts are listed.[12]
    • Contract policies are provided.[13]
  • Public Records
    • Clear information is provided on public records requests, including a contact list for making requests.[14]
    • Ethics information[15]
  • Lobbying
    • Lobbyist lists are posted.[16]
    • Lobbyist database provides information on lobbyist principals and contracts.
  • Compensation
    • Salary schedules for state public employees is posted.[17]

The bad

  • Budget
    • Checkbook register is not posted.
    • No evidence that appropriations bills are posted online at least one week before being voted on.
  • Audits
    • Performance audits are not posted.
    • Schedule for audits is not posted.
  • Lobbying
    • No information is available on Taxpayer-funded lobbying.
    • Information on state grants to non-profit organizations not posted.
  • Compensation
    • Each department should list the cost of salaries and benefits.

U.S. PIRG rating

The U.S. PIRG rated the state website a "D-" on providing online access to government spending data, with a score of 54 out of 100.[18]

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.[19]

Maine received an overall grade of F, or 56%. It ranked 46 out of the 50 states.[20]

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

Transparency Legislation

Resources

Resource Run by Includes Year URL
Maine Recovery State Tracks federal stimulus funds 2011 http://www.maine.gov/recovery/
ConnectME Authority State Meetings, notes, and agendas for Maine\'s Broadband Data and Development Program 2011 http://www.maine.gov/connectme/
Government Ethics and Election Practices State Lobbyists and campaign finance 2011 http://www.mainecampaignfinance.com/public/home.asp
MaineOpenGov Maine Heritage Policy Center Turnpike payroll, retiree pensions, state employee charts, school spending, welfare, local school employee payrolls. 2011 http://www.maineopengov.org/
Follow the Money National Institute on Money in Politics Campaign contributions 2010 http://www.followthemoney.org/database/state_overview.phtml?y=2010&s=ME

Salaries

State and Local Employees

According to 2008 Census data, the state of Maine and local governments in the state employed a total of 102,812 people.[21] Of those employees, 68,424 were full-time employees receiving a net pay of $238,495,641 per month and 34,388 were part-time employees paid $24,146,291 per month.[21] More than 54% of those employees, or 56,31 employees, were in education or higher education.[21]

The Maine State Payroll is posted in searchable form on MaineOpenGov. A searchable database of local government salaries is also found at MaineOpenGov.[22]

State Employee Benefits

Employees of the State of Maine receive many benefits. Benefits make up between 35% and 44% of state employee overall compensation in 2009, depending on the department in which they worked.[23]

Insurance

Health The State of Maine offers employees enrollment in its HMO health insurance plan.[24] It includes prescription drug coverage.[25]

Dental Dental insurance is available to full or part-time employees, with the State contributing $13.29 biweekly for full-time employees.[26]

Vision Although the health insurance includes some vision coverage, employees may add supplemental vision insurance and have a choice among several plans.[27]

Long Term Care Insurance Employees have the option of purchasing long term care insurance.[28]

Vacation Commonwealth employees receive 11 1/2 vacation days per year.[29]

  • New Year's
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Birthday
  • Presidents Day
  • Patriot's Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Columbus Day
  • Veterans Day
  • Thanksgiving
  • The Day After Thanksgiving
  • Christmas

Other Leave 11 Shutdown days per year. UNPAID.

Other Benefits

  • Flexible Spending Accounts
  • Employee Assistance Program - a separate program from the mental health benefits available under the health insurance plan[30].

Pensions

Approximately, 26,000 active public employee retirees have contributed $900 million into the MainePERS, but the Maine Heritage Policy Center projects the lifetime benefits for retirees to cost an estimated to be $15.4 billion.[31] The cost of pension benefits is expected to raise by $287 million for the next budget, costing a total of $916 million.[32] Over 11,000 public employees in Maine will collect lifetime pension benefits of more than $500,000.[33] Also, more than 50 percent of public employees collecting pension benefits worked for the government less than 25 years.[33]

Top 10 largest project payments[34]
Name Projected total payments
Doug Cummings $4,016,729
Kevin Curran $3,763,550
Robert Pelletier $3,476,958
Gerald Clockedile $3,416,247
Brian Theriault $3,409,564
Ronald Barker $3,324,313
Leon Levesque $3,323,146
Kevin Conger $3,197,097
Gehrig Johnson $3,143,643

Funding Levels

For every dollar that public employees put into their pension funds, they receive $17 in lifetime pension benefits in return.[31] The total contribution by active retirees was $882,274,785, less than 6 percent of the total pension costs.[33]

The state's pension liabilities can be calculated in a variety of ways, which yield different numbers. Below are the numbers as calculated by to the Pew Center on the States[35], the American Enterprise Institute[36] and Professors Robert Novy-Marx of the University of Chicago and Joshua Rauh of Northwestern University, Kellogg Graduate School of Management.[37]

In Thousands
'PEW '(2008) AEI (2008) Kellogg (2009)
$2,782,173 $13,227,289 $11,800,000

Public Records

The Maine Freedom of Access Act is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of government bodies at all levels in Maine. The Freedom of Access Act also legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted.

The Maine Open Meeting Law legislates the methods by which open meetings are conducted.

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

External links

References

  1. State Agencies
  2. Executive Officials
  3. Phone Directory
  4. http://www.maine.gov/portal/government/legislature Legislature]
  5. Bill Info
  6. Budget
  7. ARRA
  8. Business Taxes
  9. Taxes & Finance
  10. CAFR
  11. RFP
  12. Awarded contracts
  13. Contract Policies
  14. FOAA
  15. Commission on Ethics
  16. Lobbyist List
  17. http://www.informe.org/cgi-bin/bhrsalary/schedules.pl Salary Schedule]
  18. US PIRG, Following the Money: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data, March 14, 2012
  19. "50 states and no winners," State Integrity Investigation, StateIntegrity.org
  20. Maine Corruption Risk Report Card, State Integrity Investigation, StateIntegrity.org
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 2008 Maine Public Employment U.S. Census Data
  22. MaineOpenGov.org
  23. MaineOpenGov.com Benefits:% of Total Compensation
  24. [1]
  25. State Employee Health Commission
  26. Dental Insurance
  27. Vision Index
  28. Long Term Care Insurance
  29. State Holidays
  30. Employee Assistance Program
  31. 31.0 31.1 Maine Watchdog, Pension Costs Rise, Oct. 25, 2010
  32. Bangor Daily, Maine retirement system cost rises by $287 million for next budget, July 9, 2010
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 Maine Heritage Policy Center, Taxpayer-Funded Government Pensions to Turn Thousands of Retirees into Millionaires, Oct. 25, 2010
  34. Maine Open Gov, Largest projected pension payments
  35. "State Pensions and Retiree Healthcare Benefits: The Trillion Dollar Gap,” Pew Center on the States, accessed January 4, 2011
  36. Biggs, Andrew, “The Market Value of Public-Sector Pension Deficits,” AEI Outlook Series, no. 1 (2010)
  37. Novy-Marx, Robert and Joshua Rauh, 2010, "Public Pension Promises: How Big Are They and What Are They Worth," Journal of Finance (forthcoming)