Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno and members of the Senate Majority Conference today launched its "Accountability in Government Spending" plan, a major initiative designed to save taxpayer money, reduce government waste and unnecessary spending, and ensure greater openness and accountability throughout State government. As efforts increase to reduce State spending, these measures would provide a much more detailed accounting of how State government actually spends tax dollars.
The proposals, which would build on the Senate’s recent approval of a Constitutional Spending Cap, include new Public Expenditure Reports for state agencies, authorities and the Judiciary, new performance-based budgeting requirements, and a new public website initiative to allow New Yorkers to track the performance of government programs and submit ideas for reducing spending and stopping wasteful spending.
"With millions of middle class families tightening their belts to overcome tough economic times, taxpayers have every right to demand that their government operates as openly and efficiently as possible," said Senator Bruno. "When coupled with our Constitutional Spending Cap, these commonsense reform measures will help New York overcome the fiscal challenges we face, while also providing taxpayers with a more transparent, accountable, and efficient government."
In an effort to address the State’s economic situation, Governor Paterson has directed State agencies to reduce their spending by 3.35 percent, and indicated a desire to begin discussions on spending reductions in the 2009-10 State budget.
"The budget is just a projection of what an agency expects to spend. The plans we are announcing today would, for the first time, give the public a detailed accounting of exactly how agencies, including all executive agencies, the judiciary and public authorities, are spending the dollars collected from hardworking taxpayers," Senator Bruno said. "This information, which is already provided by the Legislature, is critically important and should go hand in hand with any effort to reduce State spending."
Public Expenditure Reports
Legislation (S.6358) will be advanced to 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.
The Legislature has compiled and publicly released such expenditure reports since 1996, a fact that has enabled the legislative branch to more effectively monitor and control its internal operations and budgeting practices. Since Senator Bruno initiated these reports in 1996, the Legislature has successfully kept spending on its own operations below the rate of inflation, as well as far below the average annual spending growth rate for the State Budget as a whole.
Since 2000, while the Legislature’s Budget has grown by less than 12 percent, the overall State funds portion of the Budget has increased by more than 61 percent.
Senator John DeFrancisco (R-C-I-WF, Syracuse) said, "All New Yorkers have the right to evaluate the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of government and we have an obligation to make doing so as easy as possible. This would dramatically improve public access to information about government spending and will build on our ongoing efforts to open up New York State government."
Senator Joseph A. Griffo (R-C, Rome) said, "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."
Constitutional Spending Cap
Under the Senate’s spending cap plan (S. 7134 – passed Senate 3/12/2008), year-to-year State spending increases would be limited to 120 percent of the Consumer Price Index or 4 percent, whichever is less. In any given year, fifty percent of tax revenue that exceeded the cap would be placed in a reserve fund and fifty percent would be returned to taxpayers in the form of direct tax rebates. If such a cap had been in place since 2000, State taxpayers would have saved $13 billion, half of which would have been returned to taxpayers and the other half placed in a rainy day reserve fund.
New York State Responsibility, Performance, Accountability, Initiative and Results Act of 2008 (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 actual performance of virtually all State government programs.
New York State has not had a performance metric rating tool for agencies and programs since the abandonment of "key item" reporting in the 1980s. Based on the federal Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART), the REPAIR Act will help to provide New York's citizens and taxpayers with government programs that work and achieve their goals.
"The REPAIR Act is a report card on State government. This bill is modeled on a federal initiative which recently won the prestigious Innovations in American Government Awards administered by the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and the Council for Excellence in Government. With this legislation, New York State residents will be able to tell if the agencies which provide important, life-improving services to people ranging from children to seniors are getting their money’s worth, and if our families are being served. This package of bills will go a long way in giving New Yorkers peace of mind, and the security in knowing that they are not getting ripped off by the government that is pledged to serve them," said Senator Martin Golden (R,C-Brooklyn).
The Senate will also advance legislation to create a new website that would enable the public to review the performance of government programs to see how effectively agencies are spending tax dollars. People visiting the site could also submit their own suggestions and recommendations on how to stop government waste and reduce State spending.
The ResultsNYS.com initiative is patterned after the Federal Office of Management and Budget's ExpectMore.gov website, as well as the Commonwealth of Virginia’s "Virginia Performs" 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 government expenditures, as well as the performance of State government agencies and programs.
"Establishing an interactive website like ResultsNYS.com, 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 saving money, improving performance and producing measurable results," said Senator Joseph Griffo (R,C-Rome).
While many State agency websites provide useful information regarding certain programs and initiatives, few provide access to objective, comparative data that enable taxpayers to accurately assess the performance of government agencies and programs. In contrast, ResultsNYS.com would provide detailed information on agency budgets and program expenditures, and would include a heavy emphasis on comparative data and statistics to show how the State is performing regionally and nationally in key areas such as the economy, education, public safety, energy, housing, and the environment.
The site would also include an interactive feature that would enable members of the public to submit suggestions and recommendations on how to save taxpayer money, help eliminate wasteful spending, and operate government more efficiently and cost effectively.