Wednesday, April 04, 2007

In Case You Weren’t Sufficiently Disappointed With the Budget Process...

It seems that the public will have to wait a little longer to find out how their tax dollars have been allocated for member items, despite the promises of greater transparency made by lawmakers last year.

This budget did mark the first time that these grants have been “lined out” in the budget--previous budgets have simply earmarked lump sums of millions of dollars that were then doled out like candy by the governor and legislative leaders.

But the Sun and the Daily News report that the member items are split up among the overseeing agencies, not compiled in a neat list, and are scattered among the thousands of pages of the budget. More importantly, the names of the requesting members are not included with the items.

It also appears that lawmakers are not in a hurry to fill in the budget information gaps. According to the Sun, Majority Leader Bruno has only promised to release the master member item list prior to the money being spent, while Assembly leaders are apparently still putting their list together.

We were frankly dismayed by Assembly Majority Leader Canestrari’s reaction to questions about transparency. The Sun writes:
But a top lieutenant to Silver, Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari (D-Cohoes), argued that the lack of information about the purpose of the funding and the name of the grant sponsor was not significant.

The purpose of the grant is often "self-evident," he said. "If it says it's for a Little League, it's going to be used for Little League. If anyone has a question, they can call us and we will give them the information."
We think he's missing the point. New York taxpayers deserve to know which members are spending their money, where it's going, and, most importantly, what worthy (or unworthy) purpose the money will serve. If the project is worth funding, why would any grant sponsor feel differently?

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