The Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) reform bill signed by Governor Cuomo today is a huge win for government transparency in New York. [Read_more]
Taxpayers beware: the annual push to water down New York’s property tax cap is underway in the state Legislature. [Read_more]
For the first time in decades, at least one house of the Legislature may be ready to advance reform of New York's State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR), long identified as a major obstacle to growth across the state. [Read_more]
In 2014, the Empire Center created guidelines for what information local governments and school districts should make available on their websites—and found that most of the state's 500 largest municipalities and districts were not meeting that standard. [Read_more]
New York’s Legislature has been exempt from many provisions of the state Freedom of Information Law since FOIL was first enacted in 1974. The Assembly and Senate ultimately decide how much legislative information to make public. This makes about as much sense as putting Cookie Monster in charge of security at the Chips Ahoy factory.
As a result, a lot of information on legislative matters ranging from individual employee timesheets to a billion-dollar slush fund has been concealed from taxpayers.
But if Governor Cuomo has his way, that could soon change. [Read_more]
"I want the Legislature to understand that we're serious about reform."
So said Governor Andrew Cuomo following his veto of two bills that would have strengthened New York's Freedom of Information Law (FOIL)—helping citizens hold government, at all levels, more accountable.
So if you can follow the governor's logic, before he could show us he was "serious about reform," he had to block a pair of reforms he had sitting on his desk. [Read_more]
Governor Andrew Cuomo has a chance to make good on a promise to New York taxpayers by signing two bills that would help make information more accessible for public consumption. [Read_more]
The MTA has now paid the Empire Center's expenses for a successful lawsuit compelling timely release of the agency's payroll data. [Read_more]
If you’ve spent any time at a little league baseball or soccer game, or any children's sporting event, you know the cry of "hustle up" means move faster. It’s a way adults try to keep the game moving—and remind the players of what they ought to be doing. [Read_more]
Eighteen school districts sought to override the state's property tax cap in yesterday's school budget votes—the fewest attempts since the tax cap was enacted. Seven of those districts failed to win the 60 percent supermajority required to override the cap. [Read_more]
Good news to cap off Sunshine Week: at least some local government and school officials are working to make their websites more useful and informative. [Read_more]
The corruption case against Speaker Sheldon Silver has prompted more calls for reform of the Legislature. [Read_more]
It's a simple concept: governments collect tax dollars from citizens, then spends those tax dollars on services for them. Citizens have a right to know how those tax dollars are spent. Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw gets it. [Read_more]
Eighty-five percent of the websites for New York’s 500 largest counties, municipalities and school districts failed to earn a passing grade in the Empire Center’s first annual SeeThroughNY Website Report Card [Read_more]
A recent online survey asked, "should employees have the right to decide, without force or penalty, whether to join or leave a labor union?"
Nearly 83 percent of New York respondents said yes, they should. [Read_more]
Local government is a labor-intensive business, and employee compensation is the single biggest element of most municipal budgets. The 2013-14 edition of What They Make, the Empire Center's annual report on public payrolls, allows New York taxpayers to compare this key element of local government costs around the state... [Read_more]
The property tax cap for New York counties, towns and villages with fiscal years starting January 1, 2015 will start at 1.56 percent, slightly lower than last year's starting rate of 1.66 percent. The cap in each locality will vary based on the amount of applicable allowable exclusions for growth in local property values. Localities also will be able to exclude the amount by which the change in pension contributions exceeds two percentage points [Read_more]
After seven months of foot-dragging, New York's economic development agency finally got around to answering the Empire Center's request for details of state spending on an advertising campaign promoting the Start-Up NY tax-free zone program.
The total price tag for the campaign over the past year has been nearly $35 million, most of it spent on TV commercials outside and inside New York State, according to the summary we received. [Read_more]
A new state budget provision would provide property tax rebates to homeowners in localities where local governments reduce costs and maintain services through shared services. [Read_more]
Twenty-four school districts sought to override the state’s property tax levy cap in yesterday’s school budget votes. Nine districts, or 38 percent of those attempting, failed to garner the 60 percent supermajority vote needed to pass an override.
The vast majority of school districts held their proposed tax levies below the statewide average of about 2.1 percent, including allowances for voter-approved capital spending, property taxes generated by new construction, and other factors. On a per-pupil basis, as detailed in the Empire Center’s annual School Budget Spotlight, the average proposed tax levy hike came to 2.6 percent. Spending growth in proposed budgets was 3.2 percent per pupil, one and a half times the inflation rate. [Read_more]
Over at SeeThroughNY, our team works really hard to post fresh data quickly and accurately — when it’s available, that is. [Read_more]
How to shine a light on how our taxdollars are spent. [Read_more]
In total, the state's multiple levels of government burn through more than $190 billion a year from their own revenue sources, mainly taxes. Another $60 billion comes the federal government - which has its own claim on our wallets.
But where does it all go? Thanks to the digital revolution, anyone with access to the Internet can begin to find some answers to that question. [Read_more]
Despite the not-rosy fiscal status of the county, the Suffolk County Legislature approved the last outstanding contract for county police officers. (In January, Moody’s listed Suffolk County among the municipal bond issuers facing a credit rating downgrade.) [Read_more]
A challenging fiscal environment and notoriously high property taxes have raised structural and service issues to new levels as communities explore the potential efficiencies to be gained through shared services, dissolution and consolidation. [Read_more]
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has agreed to a seven-year contract that will give MTA cops base pay increases totaling 18 percent, including a 7.5 percent retroactive boost effective immediately, the Daily News reports. Union members also scored a boost in their longevity pay, which will rise to a maximum of $9,800, in exchange for agreeing to curb overtime, stretch-out the schedule of annual pay hikes for newly hired officers and make new recruits pay 2 percent of their salaries toward health insurance. [Read_more]
Governor Cuomo’s method of unveiling economic development “awards” is certainly a triumph of branding, hype and stagecraft, complete with special guest emcee Maria Bartiromo. [Read_more]
In 2011, Suffolk County passed a local law (Article I, Section 77-4) barring county elected officials from collecting two public-sector salaries. Now, however, County Executive Steve Bellone wants to change the law... [Read_more]
In 2008, around the time the Empire Center launched its transparency website SeeThroughNY, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli was moving on the same track with the creation of OpenBookNewYork. [Read_more]
Local government is a labor-intensive business, and employee compensation is the single biggest element of most municipal budgets. The 2012-13 edition of What They Make, the Empire Center's annual report on public payrolls, allows New York taxpayers to compare this key element of local government costs around the state... [Read_more]