Evaluation of New York state website

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NY.gov is the website for the state of New York.

Website evaluation

Grade2.pngD
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
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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 N
600px-Red x.png
State agency websitesGuide.png
Transparency grading process


This website was reviewed on March 12, 2013.

The good

  • Budget (5/10 pts)
    • Budgets are posted from 1999.[1]
    • The current budget, the enacted budget, and the executive budget documents are posted.
    • State tax information is available.[2]
  • Usability (5/10 pts)
    • The site has a good search function, which is important, since it is difficult to find specific information using the list of state agencies.[3]
  • Executive (5/10 pts)
    • Contact information is provided for state agencies.[4]
    • Key voting dates are posted.[5]
  • Legislative (5/10 pts)
    • Legislators are listed with contact information.[6][7]
    • Assembly members have committee information and party information available.
  • Ethics (10/10 pts)
    • Ethics and lobbyist information are posted.[8]
    • The complaints process is posted.[9]
    • Advisory opinions are posted.[10]
  • Audits (8/10 pts)
    • Audits are posted for multiple years and information on the audit process is available.[11]
  • Contracts (6/10 pts)
    • Contracts are posted in a searchable database.[12]
    • Bid opportunities are posted.[13]
  • Lobbying (4/10 pts)
    • Ethics and lobbyist information are posted.[14]
  • Compensation (0/10 pts)

The bad

U.S. PIRG rating

The U.S. PIRG rated the state website an "B+" on providing online access to government spending data, with a score of 89 out of 100.[16]

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.[17]

New York received an overall grade of D, or 65%. It ranked 36 out of the 50 states.[18]

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

Transparency Legislation

Resources

Resource Run by Includes Year URL
NYWORKS State Tracks federal stimulus funds 2011 http://www.recovery.ny.gov/Recovery/rra.htm
Office of State Comptroller State Audits of agencies and local governments 2011 http://www.osc.state.ny.us/audits/index.htm
Board of Elections State Lobbying and campaign finance 2011 http://www.elections.state.ny.us/
Open Book State Stimulus spending, state agency spending, state contracts, and local government spending 2011 http://www.openbooknewyork.com/
Attorney General State Browse bills, bill jackets, State elected officials, member items, campaign finance, State contracts, State corporations, charities, local elected officials, local government by county. 2011 http://www.sunlightny.com/snl1/app/index.jsp
SeeThroughNY Empire Center Payrolls, pensions, contracts, and expenditures 2010 http://www.seethroughny.net/
Follow the Money National Institute on Money in Politics Campaign contributions 2010 http://www.followthemoney.org/database/state_overview.phtml?y=2010&s=NY

Salaries

State and Local Employees

Gov. Cuomo said contracts for 96% of the state workforce are up for renegotiation on April 1, 2011, the first day of fiscal year 2012, and said that he planned to maintain a salary freeze.[19]

According to 2008 Census data, the state of New York and local governments in the state employed a total of 1,410,211 people.[20] Of those employees, 1,135,813 were full-time employees receiving a net pay of $5,564,155,250 per month and 274,398 were part-time employees paid $330,929,502 per month.[20] More than 47% of those employees, or 675,927 employees, were in education or higher education.[20]

A recent New York Times article said that 131,000 public employees work under the Governor of the state, with 163,000 more workers employed by independent public authorities and agencies.[21] Those working under the Governor has seen around 25 percent of the staff laid off in the past 20 years.[21] Meanwhile departments not under the Governor has seen increased growth. The State University of New York has grown by 14 percent, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority by about 5 percent, and the state judiciary has increased by 31.6 over the same period.[21]

A recent report revealed that 19 of the top 20 earning public salaries in the state were for police and firefighters, who are earning more than $200,000 annually.[22]

New York custodians have received criticism for having rules like they will only paint 20 percent of walls "to the height of 10 feet," among other policies. School custodial staffers contend that only a small number of custodial engineers take advantage of the policies.[23]

State Employee Benefits

Holidays

New York state employees receive the following holidays as days off with pay[24]:

  • New Year's Day
  • Lincoln's Birthday
  • Washington's Birthday
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Columbus Day
  • Election Day
  • Veterans' Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day

Vacation Employees are credited with 6 1/2 days vacation upon completion of the required 13 biweekly pay periods. Thereafter, during their second through seventh years they earn vacation credits at the rate of 1/2 day per biweekly pay period. Employees who have completed seven years of creditable State service earn vacation at the rate of 20 days for each 26 biweekly pay periods (1 year). Upon completion of each full year of continuous service, earn vacation "bonus days" based on time in service.[25]

Sick Leave Full-time employees and those part-time employees working a fixed number of hours five days per week are eligible to earn sick leave.[26] Full-time employees are credited with sick leave at the rate of 1/2 day for each pay period in which he/she is in full pay status for seven of ten working days, earning up to 13 vacation days/year.[26]

Employees may not accumulate sick leave credits in excess of 150 days. After reaching this maximum, employees can earn credits only after the balance has been reduced to fewer than 150 days. Sick leave credits which employees would have earned beyond this maximum cannot be credited to them.[26]

Personal Leave Employees are credited with five days personal leave each year on their anniversary date.[27]

Insurance

Employees may enroll in the New York State Health Insurance Program. Employees may choose between the Empire Plan and an HMO. Dental and vision insurance may be added by the employee as well.[28]

Other Benefits

  • Flexible Spending Accounts for dependent care expenses or health care expenses.[29]
  • Employee Assistance Program is a peer assistance program jointly sponsored by labor and management. NYS EAP provides confidential information, assessment, and referral services to NYS employees, their family members, and retirees. It also provides orientations and training for all employees, managers, supervisors, and union representatives on benefits and use of EAP.[30]
  • Worksite child care centers are sponsored by the New York State Family Benefits Program.[31]

Pensions

The state of New York has maintained a sound financial policy regarding its public pensions. Both the New York State Teachers Retirement System and the New York State Local Retirement System are fully funded according to the actuarial standards.[32]
State Information

New York's state pension fund totals $132.5 billion.[33] It is fully funded.[33]

A Pew Center on the States report about pensions praised New York for meeting its funding obligations.[34] While New York is sitting comfortably in regards to its pension plans, The Empire Center for New York State Policy is predicting an exponential increase in pension costs for New York. The Empire Center predicts that contributions to the Teachers Retirement System will quadruple, going from $900 million in 2010-2011 to $4.5 billion by 2015. They speculate contributions to the Local Retirement System will double, adding about $4 billion to taxpayers' costs.[35] Even though the state is meeting its actuarial contributions, The Empire Center estimates the two funds have combined funding shortfalls of $120 billion when their liabilities are measured using private-sector accounting rules.[36]

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is poised to announce a lowered expected return on the fund in September 2010.[33] Local governments are already bracing for a higher pension co-pay that's due in February, with the amount jumping from 7.4% of payroll to 11.9%.[33] Harry Wilson, candidate for state comptroller, has alleged that the New York state pensions are underfunded by $30 to $80 billion.[37]

Plan Current Value Percentage funded Unfunded liabilities Total state employees Avg. pension
New York State Employees Retirement System $132.8 billion 101 percent N/A 643.875 active members $18,300
New York State Police and Fire Retirement System $132.8 billion 104 percent N/A 35,342 active members $39,808
New York State Teachers Retirement System $76.8 billion 103 percent N/A 285,774 active members $47,000

Public Records

The Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of governmental bodies in New York. New York's first such law was passed in 1974. That law was repealed and replaced in 1977 with a significantly changed law. Important amendments to the law were made in 1982, 2005 and 2008.

A New York Open Meetings Law (OML) was enacted in 1976 that broadly asserts the right of the public in New York to "be fully aware of and able to observe the performance of public officials and attend and listen to the deliberations and decisions that go into the making of public policy."

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

Lobbying

Lobbyist spent $213 million in the state during the state budget crisis.[38]

Ethics violations

Gov. Paterson was fined $62,000 for accepting Yankee's World Series tickets by the Public Integrity Commission.[39]

External links

References

  1. NY.gov, "Budget Publications," accessed January 22, 2012
  2. NY.gov, "Tax Information," accessed January 22, 2012
  3. NY.gov, "State Agencies," accessed January 22, 2012
  4. NY.gov, "Contact Information for State Agencies," accessed January 22, 2012
  5. Political calendar
  6. NY.gov, "State Assembly," accessed January 22, 2012
  7. NY.gov, "State Senate," accessed January 22, 2012
  8. NY.gov, "Joint Commission on Public Ethics," accessed January 22, 2012
  9. [1]
  10. [2]
  11. NY.gov, "Audits," accessed January 22, 2012
  12. NY.gov, "Contracts," accessed January 22, 2012
  13. NY.gov, "Bid Calendar," accessed January 22, 2012
  14. NY.gov, "Joint Commission on Public Ethics," accessed January 22, 2012
  15. NY.gov, "Right to Know," accessed January 22, 2012
  16. US PIRG, Following the Money: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data, March 14, 2012
  17. "50 states and no winners," State Integrity Investigation, StateIntegrity.org
  18. New York Corruption Risk Report Card, State Integrity Investigation, StateIntegrity.org
  19. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named mess
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 2008 New York Public Employment U.S. Census Data
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 New York Times, Albany’s Two Payrolls: One Is Anybody’s Guess, July 27, 2010
  22. MSNBC's Red Tap Chronicles, Does your city manager earn $800,000?, Sept. 23, 2010
  23. New York Post, Custodians' wacky work rules a dirty scandal, Nov. 9, 2010
  24. Legal Holidays
  25. Leave Manual - Vacation
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 Leave Manual - Sick Leave
  27. Leave Manual - Personal Leave
  28. NYSHIP
  29. Flex Spending Accounts
  30. Employee Assistance Program
  31. Childcare
  32. 'Albany Times Union', State fiscal woes grow, Aug. 21, 2010
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 33.3 The Albany Times Union "State fiscal woes grow" Aug. 22, 2010
  34. 'Pew Center on the States', The Trillion Dollar Gap
  35. 'Empire Center for New York State Policy', New York's Exploding Pension Costs, Dec. 7, 2010
  36. 'Empire Center for New York State Policy', New York's Exploding Pension Costs, Dec. 7, 2010
  37. Watchdog, NY comptroller candidate slams pension funding, Sept. 2, 2010
  38. Wall Street Journal, Lobbyists Win In Budget Crisis, May 6, 2011
  39. New York Post, Gov. Paterson fined $62K for taking free Yankees tickets, Dec. 20, 2010