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Senator Volker Announces New Budget Transparency And Accountability Plan

 

(Albany, NY) Senator Dale M. Volker (R-I-C, Depew) today announced that The New York State Senate unveiled a new three-point budget transparency and accountability plan that is designed to ensure greater openness, performance, and responsiveness in State government.

"Our residents demand accountability from their government, and the State Senate is addressing this matter head on," said Senator Dale M. Volker. "The State Senate has for several years publicly disclosed salaries and expenses of each senate member and their staffs. Unfortunately, the Governor’s Office and the Judiciary have not. It is time that the highest levels of government demonstrate openness and transparency like the rest of us. Our residents deserve the ability to look at their government and elected officials under the microscope to protect the trust and accountability of their democratic institutions."

The new proposals, which are being announced during the national "Sunshine Week" observance, would build upon new laws that the State Senate successfully enacted in 2005 and 2006 to strengthen the State’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). Since 1996, the Senate has also taken the lead in providing public information about its operations and expenditures through public expenditure reports. In addition, the Senate Majority has consistently advanced proposals calling for greater transparency in the State budget process, including line-by-line itemization of all items in the State budget, and last year the Senate began posting information on member initiative spending on its website.

Specific elements of the plan advanced today include:

· New Public Expenditure Reports: Legislation will be advanced that will require, for the first time ever, all Executive State government entities and the Judiciary to compile and release public expenditure reports. These reports must include information detailing personnel costs, equipment purchases, postage costs, travel costs and other expenditures. For the past decade, the Legislature has compiled and publicly released such expenditure reports.

The Executive and Judicial branches of government spend billions of dollars each year, and more detailed reporting on their expenditures would help to promote greater transparency and ensure that proper budgeting policies are being observed throughout State government. (The Senate first began issuing its public expenditure reports in 1996.)

· Creation of the ACCESSNY.GOV Program: Patterned after the Federal Office of Management and Budget’s ExpectMore.gov website, this proposal would establish a new, user-friendly website that provides the public – at the touch of a keyboard – with the ability to review the performance of State government agencies and programs.

AccessNY.gov would provide a "one-stop shopping" type site, with information about state government contracts, as well as specific indicators to help the public determine how effectively tax dollars are being spent and how individual government programs are performing.

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· The New York State Responsibility, Performance, Accountability, Initiative and Results Act of 2007 (The REPAIR Act / S.154-A) – This comprehensive measure would require all state agencies to develop long-term strategic plans, follow performance budgeting principles, and enable the public, the Division of Budget and the Legislature to better evaluate the fiscal management and performance of virtually all State government programs.

Additional details regarding the three point plan include:

ACCESS NY: Currently, many New York State agencies provide valuable information regarding public policy issues and government programs and initiatives. However, New Yorkers would clearly benefit from having access to important statistics and information on a "one-stop shopping" type basis, and a greater emphasis needs to be placed on providing useful, comparative data that will enable taxpayers to more readily determine the actual performance of government agencies and programs.

Establishing a user-friendly interactive website, WWW.ACCESSNY.GOV, would enhance government transparency and accountability, while also helping to reassure New Yorkers that their tax dollars are being spent wisely. In addition, it would also help to ensure that all State government agencies remain fully focused on performance and producing measurable results.

Under the proposal being advanced in the Senate, this website initiative would enable the public to review specific performance targets and the progress of state agencies in critical areas that directly affect their quality of life. The new ACCESSNY.gov site would also include specific indicators to help members of the public find out how the state is performing regionally and nationally in critical subject areas including the economy, education, public safety, energy, housing, and the environment. In health care for example, the website could enable users to compare how our state is performing in terms of the following:

· Life Expectancy Rates and Infant Mortality Rates

· Obesity Rates, Teen Pregnancy Rates and Suicide Rates

· Health Insurance / Uninsured

· Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease Rates

NYS Responsibility, Performance, Accountability, Initiative and Results Act (REPAIR): Based on the federal Program Assessment Rating Tool initiative (PART), the 2007 "REPAIR" Act (S.154-A) would establish a comprehensive means of evaluating the fiscal management and performance of government programs and institute a requirement for performance budgeting.

Specific provisions include the following:

Step 1: Strategic Plans - Beginning in 2009 each agency will submit to the Division of Budget (DOB) and the Legislature a five-year strategic plan for program activities (updated every three years) that includes a mission statement, goals and objectives for the major functions of the agency, a description of how the goals will be achieved, resources required to achieve the goals, and procedures for evaluation.

Step 2: Performance Plans - Beginning in 2009, DOB will include performance plans from each agency as part of the Executive Budget. These plans will establish performance goals in a quantifiable and measurable form, as well as performance indicators to assess the outcomes of each program activity. They will also provide a means of comparing actual program results with the established performance goals.

Step 3: Program Results - Each year, agencies must show whether they achieved their goals, and compare the results to the prior year (eventually to the prior three years).

Step 4: Performance Budgeting – This provision requires that at least five State agencies be designated to begin pilot projects in performance budgeting in 2010 and 2011.

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A critical element of the REPAIR Act is its underlying use of the PART program assessment rating tool. This proven diagnostic tool, which is designed to provide a consistent approach to evaluating programs, focuses on four broad themes: (1) program purpose and design, (2) strategic planning, (3) program management, and (4) program results (i.e., whether a program is meeting its long-term and annual goals).

New York has not had a performance metric rating tool for agencies and programs since the abandonment of "key item" reporting in the 1980’s. Based on the federal experience, the tools in the REPAIR Act will help to provide New York’s citizens and taxpayers with government programs that work and achieve their goals.

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