spotlight-thumb1-150x150-6690686It’s a simple concept: governments collect tax dollars from citizens, and citizens have a right to know how those dollars are spent.

Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw gets it. As he recently told Time Warner Cable News, “It’s the people’s money.”

Living up that sentiment, Mychajiliw has just begun to post the County’s checkbook online.

erie-5845433

It isn’t a perfect system. Three key shortcomings:

  • The checkbook is posted in “pdf” format–the digital equivalent of a printed list of payees, in alphabetical order–which means the data cannot be sorted and tabulated. Note to the comptroller: if you can generate a pdf file, you can just as easily generate a spreadsheet or universally readable “csv” file, as well.
  • Payroll data (already posted on our SeeThroughNY) are excluded, which isn’t a small deal because payroll accounts for the largest single share of government budgets.
  • While the list identifies the payee, the amount paid and date (presumably) of payment, there is no further explanation or memo line, so it’s not always clear what each payment was for.

Even so, proactively disclosing this information is commendable. A move that gives citizens more insight into how their tax dollars are spent and allows them to ask more informed questions about their government.

This is a good first step towards broader and more comprehensive proactive disclosure.

About the Author

Tim Hoefer

Tim Hoefer is president & CEO of the Empire Center for Public Policy.

Read more by Tim Hoefer

You may also like

Hochul’s Pandemic Study Is a $4.3 Million Flop

The newly released study of New York's coronavirus pandemic response falls far short of what Governor Hochul promised – and the state urgently needs – in the aftermath of its worst natural disaster in modern history. Read More

NY’s biggest public pension fund gained nearly 12% in FY 2024

Rebounding from its biggest loss since the Global Financial Crisis, New York's Common Retirement Fund realized a strong investment gain of 11.55 percent in fiscal year 2024, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced. The Fund, which now stands just below $268 billion, supports pensions paid to members of the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS). Read More

82 Questions Hochul’s Pandemic Report Should Answer

This is the month when New Yorkers are due to finally receive an official report on the state's response to the Covid-19 pandemic, one of the deadliest disasters in state history. T Read More

The Real Lack of Courage Driving NYC Congestion Pricing

Governor Hochul is taking heat after postponing the state’s years-old plan to charge drivers to enter lower Manhattan. As critics slam her for lacking “political courage,” it’s an appropriate time to examine some of the underlying issues that congestion pricing was meant to indirectly mitigate—because many if not most advocates were afraid to touch those issues themselves. And if congestion pricing proponents are to be taken at their word about their concern for MTA finances, or traffic, or air quality, they must show some of the same courage they’ve accused the governor of lacking. Read More

To Encourage Recycling, Pols Move To Trash The Legislature

New York state lawmakers in recent years have surrendered some of their policymaking and taxing powers to the executive branch. With the 2024 legislative session coming to close, they’re poised to go even further and turn those powers over to an organization outside of government entirely. Read More

Lawmakers Seek To Revive a $10 Fee for Prescriptions That Was Dropped by DFS

A plan to require a $10.18 "dispensing fee" for filling drug prescriptions is back on the table in Albany – this time in the form of legislation rather than regulation. The Read More

Running Over Taxpayers: Legislature Speeding to Protect Cadillac Benefits for NYC Retirees

Bills designed to block any change to retiree health coverage for state and local public employees have been introduced repeatedly by legislators in both parties over the past 30 years. But the latest statewide “anti-diminution” measure, inspired by an ongoing controversy in New York City, would be the broadest and most costly yet—and more than two-thirds of state lawmakers are supporting it. Read More

How a Medicaid ‘Cut’ Could Lead to More Unionization of Home Care Aides

A money-saving maneuver in the newly enacted Medicaid budget could end up increasing costs in the long term – by paving the way for more unionization of the state's burgeoning home health workforce. Read More