Evaluation of Massachusetts state website

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Budget P
Usability P
Legislative P
Executive P
Audits P
Contracts P
Lobbying P
Public records
State agency websitesGuide.png
Transparency grading process

Mass.gov is the website for the state of Massachusetts (Sunshine Review).

Website evaluation

In 2011 Massachusetts earned a Sunny Award for having a perfect website transparency score.

This website was reviewed on March 12, 2013. At this time it earned 75 out of a 100 possible points, earning a B- website transparency grade.

The good

  • Budget (7/10 pts)
    • Budgets are posted for FY 2007-FY 2014.[1]
    • Revenue hearings are posted.[2]
    • Governor's budget recommendations are posted.[3]
    • Financial reports are posted.[4]
    • Massachusetts has an online check register.[5]
    • Tax information is available.[6]
  • Usability (5/10 pts)
    • The site has a transparency page.[7]
    • Data is exportable.[8]
  • Executive (8/10 pts)
    • Elected officials are listed with contact information.[9][10]
    • A list of agencies is posted, and administrative officials' contact information is available on each agency's page.[11]
    • Employee salaries and pensions are posted.[12] [13]
  • Legislative (8/10 pts)
    • Legislator contact information is listed. Committee assignments are listed, bill sponsorship is listed.[14] [15]
    • Employee salaries and pensions are posted.[16] [17]
  • Ethics (10/10 pts)
    • Ethics information is posted.[18]
    • Information on the complaint process is posted.[19]
    • Opinions and rulings are posted.[20]
  • Audits (6/10 pts)
    • Audits are posted for several years.[21]
  • Contracts (6/10 pts)
    • Vendor information is posted for open opportunities.[22]
    • Contracts are posted.[23] [24]
  • Compensation (10/10 pts)
    • Employee salaries and pensions are posted.[29] [30]

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 92 out of 100.[31]

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.[32]

Massachusetts received an overall grade of C, or 74%. It ranked 10 out of the 50 states.[33]

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

Transparency Legislation

See also: Massachusetts transparency legislation


Resource Run by Includes Year URL
Administration and Finance State Budget 2011 http://www.mass.gov/anf/budget-taxes-and-procurement/state-budget/
Comptroller State Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFR) 2010 http://tinyurl.com/d9tawv
Comptroller State Statutory Basis Financial Report (SBFR) 2010 http://tinyurl.com/3ussm9
Office of Campaign and Political Finance State Lobbying and campaign finance 2011 http://www.mass.gov/ocpf/
Recovery State Tracks federal stimulus funds 2011 http://www.mass.gov/?pageID=stimhomepage&L=1&L0=Home&sid=Fstim
Follow the Money National Institute on Money in Politics Campaign contributions 2010 http://www.followthemoney.org/database/state_overview.phtml?y=2010&s=MA
MassReportCards Pioneer Institute School data http://www.massreportcards.org/
MassOpenBooks Pioneer Institute Salaries, pensions, payments 2011 http://massopenbooks.org/


See also: Massachusetts state government salary

State and Local Employees

According to 2008 Census data, the state of Massachusetts and local governments in the state employed a total of 403,808 people.[34] Of those employees, 305,924 were full-time employees receiving a net pay of $1,408,423,479 per month and 97,884 were part-time employees paid $121,702,932 per month.[34] More than 54% of those employees, or 221,115 employees, were in education or higher education.[34]

Recently, Massport chief Thomas Kinton is one of the highest paid public employees in the state. Kinton earned $312,000 in 2010. When he retires in June, he will collect $459,616.01 from the state's sick day buy back program and collect a pension of about $200,000 a year.[35]


The State of Massachusetts offers its employees many benefits.


Health To be eligible for health insurance, employees must work at least 18.75 hours in a 37.5-hour work week or 20 hours in a 40-hour work week. Employees have several different insurance plans from which to choose, including four HMO plans, two PPO plans and a basic plan.[36] Prescription drug benefits are included in each plan.[36]

Dental and Vision The Dental/Vision Program is for state employees who are not covered by collective bargaining or do not have another dental and/or vision plan through the state.[37] The plan primarily covers managers, Legislators, Legislative staff, and certain Executive Office staff.[37] Individual coverage costs employees up to $5 per month, and family coverage costs up to $17.68 per month.[38]

Long Term Disability All active full-time and half-time state employees who work at least 18.75 hours in a 37.5-hour work week or 20 hours in a 40-hour work week are eligible for LTD benefits. New employees may enroll in LTD without providing evidence of good health within 31 days of hire.[39] Employees who do not smoke pay as little as $0.05 per month for this benefit, and, depending on the employee's age, pay at most $1.30 per month.[38]

Life Insurance The Commonwealth offers $5,000 of Basic Life Insurance to all active state employees.[40] For basic life insurance, the employee pays $1.71 per month.[41] Supplemental life insurance is also available to employees[40]

Other Benefits

Health Care Spending Account Active employees can pay for out-of-pocket health care expenses on a pre-tax basis, reducing participants' federal and state income taxes.[42]

Dependent Care Spending Account The Dependent Care Assistance Program allows state employees to pay for certain dependent care expenses with pre-tax dollars.[43]

Employee Assistance Program Employees can receive help dealing with work place issues such as stress management, disruptive workplace behavior, and substance abuse as well as access counseling through the employee Assistance Program.[44]

Holidays Commonwealth employees receive 11 paid holidays per year.[45]

  • New Year's Day
  • Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Washington's Birthday
  • Patriot's Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Columbus Day
  • Veteran's Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day

Vacation Employees earn vacation based on their time of employment.[46] Number of hours of vacation earned per month[46]

Years of Service Working 37.5 hrs/week working 40 hrs/week
Less than 4 ½ years 6.25 6.667
4 ½ yrs but less than 9 ½ yrs 9.375 10.0
9 ½ yrs but less than 19 ½ yrs 12.5 13.333
19 ½ yrs or more 15.625 16.667

Sick Leave After one full calendar month of employment, employees accrue 1.25 sick days for each full month of service, to a total of 15 days per year, which may accumulate indefinitely. Thirty days (30) days per year may be used as Family Sick. Part-time employees earn time on a pro-rata basis. Twenty percent (20%) of sick time is paid out upon retirement.[46]

Personal Leave 3 Personal days are awarded each Jan 1st for use during the calendar year, and are awarded on a pro-rata basis to part-time employees.[46] Any unused personal time at the end of the year is forfeited.[46]


See also: Massachusetts public pensions

Massachusetts (Sunshine Review) state employees are members of the Massachusetts State Employees Retirement System (SERS). Public school teachers participate in the Massachusetts Teachers' Retirement System.

Costs for state pensions are on the rise across Massachusetts. According to the Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation the cost of pensions and health insurance for public employees and retirees has risen from 13.5 percent of city and town budgets a decade ago to 21 percent today. [47] Massachusetts has 106 local retirement systems that assume annual investment returns of 7.75 to 8.5 percent.

Unfunded liabilities in Massachusetts have risen from $4.8 billion prior to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 to a total of $31 billion. [48]

Plan Current Value Percentage funded Unfunded liabilities Total state employees Avg. pension
Massachusetts State Employees Retirement System $xx billion xx percent $9.5 billion xx active members $xx
Massachusetts Teachers Retirement System $19.4 billion 73 percent $13.6 billion 88,673 active members $37,067

Massachusetts State Employees Retirement System

The Massachusetts State Retirement Plan is a defined benefit program in lieu of Social Security. Membership in is mandatory for all full time employees with benefits or those working at least half-time with benefits. New employees contribute 9 percent of gross salary, and 11 percent on salary over $30,000.

Massachusetts Teachers Retirement System

The MTRS, which is the largest of the Commonwealth’s 105 contributory retirement systems, provides retirement, disability and survivor benefits to Massachusetts teachers, administrators and their families. The MTRS is a defined benefit retirement plan intended to provide a meaningful retirement benefit to the employee who has chosen a career in public service. It operates as a qualified plan under section 401(a) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Funding Levels

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[49], the American Enterprise Institute[50] and Professors Robert Novy-Marx of the University of Chicago and Joshua Rauh of Northwestern University, Kellogg Graduate School of Management.[51]

In Thousands
PEW (2008) AEI (2008) Kellogg (2009)
$21,759,452 $60,476,274 $54,200,000

Other information from the Pew Center on the States Feb. 2010 publication "The Trillion Dollar Gap":

State Pension Funding Levels 2008 (figures are in thousands)[52]
Latest liability Latest unfunded liability Annual required contribution Latest actual contribution
$58,817,155 $21,759,452 $1,226,526 $1,368,788
State Retiree Health Care and Other Non-Pension Benefits Funding 2008 (figures are in thousands)[52]
Latest liability Latest unfunded liability Annual required contribution Latest actual contribution
$15,305,100 $15,031,600 $838,700 $701,992
Underfunded pension liabilities
Number of pension plans Pension assets ($bn) Stated liabilities ($bn) Funding status (% of tax revenue)
2 $37.8 $55.4 -285%

This data is based on projected data from 2008 census data.[53] In 2008, $1.94 trillion was set aside for pensions, but it is estimated that states have $5.17 trillion in unfunded liabilities.

Rate of Return

Massachusetts presumes an 8.25% return rate on its pension investments.[54]

Date Joined System % of Salary Contribution
Prior to January 1, 1975 5%
January 1, 1975 to December 31, 1983 7%
January 1, 1984 to June 30, 1996 8%
July 1, 1996 9%

Public Records

See also: Massachusetts sunshine lawsuits

The Massachusetts Public Records Act is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of government bodies at all levels in Massachusetts (Sunshine Review). It is located at Part I, Title X Chapter 66 of the Massachusetts General Laws.

The Massachusetts 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: Massachusetts FOIA procedures

Recent news

See also: Massachusetts transparency headlines

Transparency blocking
No recent news.

No recent news.

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Sunshine Guardians
No recent news.

External links


  1. Mass.gov "State Budget," Accessed January 18, 2012
  2. Revenue hearings
  3. Governor's budget recommendations
  4. Financial reports
  5. Massachusetts check register
  6. Mass.gov "Taxes," Accessed January 18, 2012
  7. Mass.gov "Open Government," Accessed January 18, 2012
  8. Massachusetts check register
  9. Mass.gov "Elected Officials," Accessed January 18, 2012
  10. Mass.gov "Executive Branch," Accessed January 18, 2012
  11. Mass.gov "Agency List," Accessed January 18, 2012
  12. Massachusetts Open Checkbook--Pensions
  13. Massachusetts Open Checkbook--View Payroll
  14. Senate
  15. House
  16. Massachusetts Open Checkbook--Pensions
  17. Massachusetts Open Checkbook--View Payroll
  18. Mass.gov "Ethics," Accessed January 18, 2012
  19. The Enforcement Division
  20. Opinions and rulings
  21. Mass.gov "Financial Reports," Accessed January 18, 2012
  22. Mass.gov "Sell to the State," Accessed January 18, 2012
  23. [1]
  24. [2]
  25. Mass.gov "Lobbyists," Accessed January 18, 2012
  26. Mass.gov "Checkbook Register," Accessed January 18, 2012
  27. Mass.gov "FOIA," Accessed January 18, 2012
  28. Mass.gov "Making a Request for Public Records," Accessed January 18, 2012
  29. Massachusetts Open Checkbook--Pensions
  30. Massachusetts Open Checkbook--View Payroll
  31. US PIRG, Following the Money: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data, March 14, 2012
  32. "50 states and no winners," State Integrity Investigation, StateIntegrity.org
  33. Massachusetts Corruption Risk Report Card, State Integrity Investigation, StateIntegrity.org
  34. 34.0 34.1 34.2 2008 Massachusetts Public Employment U.S. Census Data
  35. Boston Herald, Massport chief’s $459G goodbye, Feb. 17, 2011
  36. 36.0 36.1 Active Employees Health Plans
  37. 37.0 37.1 Dental/Vision Plan
  38. 38.0 38.1 Other Benefit Rates
  39. Long Term Disability Insurance
  40. 40.0 40.1 Life insurance
  41. Plan Rates
  42. Health Care Spending Accounts
  43. Dependent Care Spending Account
  44. Employee Assistance Program
  45. Massachusetts Legal Holidays
  46. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named retirement
  47. Boston.com, State Pension Costs on the Rise, March 20, 2011
  48. Advisor Perspectives, Massachusetts Pensions in Crisis, March 10, 2010
  49. "State Pensions and Retiree Healthcare Benefits: The Trillion Dollar Gap,” Pew Center on the States, accessed January 4, 2011
  50. Biggs, Andrew, “The Market Value of Public-Sector Pension Deficits,” AEI Outlook Series, no. 1 (2010)
  51. Novy-Marx, Robert and Joshua Rauh, 2010, "Public Pension Promises: How Big Are They and What Are They Worth," Journal of Finance (forthcoming)
  52. 52.0 52.1 Pew Center on the States "The Trillion Dollar Gap" Feb. 2010
  53. Northwestern University, The Liabilities and Risks of State-Sponsored Pension Plans, May 2010
  54. Retirement Guide