New Yorkers, faced with inevitable sacrifices as leaders wrestle with the incredible, growing budget deficit, may not feel like they have much to celebrate. But there is a bright spot among all the pronouncements of fiscal doom and gloom.

State residents have greater-than-ever access to information that lets them in on what government is up to and how much those activities are costing taxpayers.

Gov. David Paterson recently signed legislation that would expand the scope of the Freedom of Information Law, which allows citizens to petition for information about government agencies and their activities, and the Open Meetings Law, which requires that government meetings be open to the public.

Citizens have long been able to sue when government entities violated their rights to obtain public information, but they had to pay their own legal fees. It’s doubtful that many people would choose to incur the cost of suing the violators.

Thanks to the expanded legislation, citizens who are illegally denied access to meetings or documents can recoup their legal fees from the violators.

There are other bright spots as well.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s Project Sunlight Web site (www.sunlightny.com) provides easy access to information on a variety of subjects of interest to the public — from chronicling the activities of lobbyists to reporting on the status of legislation. One of the best morsels is the detailed information provided about “member items” — also known as pork barrel projects. They are the pet projects of state legislators and the governor that get funded — to the tune of $200 million a year — and are awarded based on party status and loyalty, rather than demonstrated need.

Cuomo has been on a mission to provide more transparency about member items and to make sure they serve a public purpose. He recently rejected several member item requests, including a $5,000 walk-in refrigerator for the Massapequa Elks Lodge. Last week he began putting detailed information about his office’s review of the projects on the site — a process that will take weeks.

Keeping in the spirit of transparency, the Empire Center for Public Policy recently established www.seethroughny.com, which lists everything from state payrolls to public contracts for users’ perusal.

All of these tools enhance the public’s right to know what its government is up to. In these financially challenging days, such information is critical to ensure that public officials are spending taxpayers’ money fairly and wisely.

Read article here

You may also like

Here’s Cuomo’s Plan for Reopening New York

Jesse McKinley ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday presented a soft blueprint for how New York State’s economy might begi Read More

States with few virus cases get big share of relief aid

Geoff Mulvihill Alaska, Hawaii, Montana and Wyoming are not epicenters of the coronavirus pandemic. Yet these four states scored big this spri Read More

What to expect in the state’s first round of spending cuts

Rebecca Lewis Regular viewers of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s daily coronavirus press briefings have heard the governor say time and again that New York state is broke. Revenue projections are way down and the state is facing a budget deficit that is Read More

Eyeing Medicaid Cuts, Cuomo Puts His Stamp On A $3 Trillion Stimulus Bill

Caroline Lewis During state budget discussions in March, Governor Andrew Cuomo  that the pandemic would not stop him from pushing through changes to Medicaid that he said were necessary to contain the growth of its more than $70 billion annu Read More

Hospitals, nursing homes face another Medicaid cut during pandemic

Michael Gormley ALBANY — The state told hospitals and nursing homes this week that they will be hit with another cut in Medicaid funding as the health care system reels from costs related to fighting the COVID-19 virus and state revenue plum Read More

Port Authority’s Bloated Payroll Grew $150 Million Last Year: Report

Eve Kessler he Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s payroll ballooned by $150 million last year — a bad look when the agency is asking the federal government , including the . According to the Empire Center, a conservative-lean Read More

Regional leaders play limited role in Western New York’s reopening

Caitlin Dewey Western New York’s regional “control room” meets by phone for as long as an hour each day, opening with a briefing from Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul before officials trade local updates, case numbers and complaints. The group, Read More

Cuomo criticized for not exempting out-of-state health care workers from income tax

Joe Chen New York policy leaders say that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to not exempt out-of-state health care workers from the state’s income tax makes the state appear ungrateful for their help. “Cuomo told those he was asking to com Read More

Subscribe

Sign up to receive updates about Empire Center research, news and events in your email.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Empire Center for Public Policy
30 South Pearl St.
Suite 1210
Albany, NY 12207

Phone: 518-434-3100
Fax: 518-434-3130
E-Mail: info@empirecenter.org

About

The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.