January 25, 2013

Editorial: Welcome openness on state budget


---- — Gov. Cuomo is making good on his pledge to enable all New Yorkers to become involved in the state’s traditionally hopelessly arcane budget process.

In some ways, there is still a long way to go, but the governor’s creation of a website to lay open his proposed document for all to see signals a welcome intention.

The website is, and on it is all the information contained in Cuomo’s budget proposal. If you’re Internet savvy, indignant over public non-participation in the past and motivated to take part in the process, the door is now open.

The remaining obstacle is an old one: The budget will still be debated and eventually written by the infamous “three men in a room”: the governor, the Senate majority leader and the Assembly speaker. We trust, though, that bespeaks a readiness on the governor’s part to address even that anomaly.

Cuomo’s message accompanying the announcement of says, “Open Budget is bringing the people back into government by taking budget data out of government file cabinets and making it available to the public for the first time in an easy-to-access, downloadable form. This will facilitate research, analysis and innovation. As a first step in my Open New York initiative, Open Budget provides a powerful tool for transparency and accountability, fostering citizen engagement and enhancing the public’s trust in government.”

The news release continues: “The Open Budget website provides easy, single-stop access to New York’s wealth of budget data, including comprehensive machine-readable raw financial data along with tools and charts to make that information more understandable. To support transparency and to encourage participation in government, researchers, citizens, business and the media will now have direct access to high-value data which they can search, explore and download; use for analysis; and use to build their own additional tools that find practical uses for the data for all New Yorkers.”

Well, it’s not as easy as all of that.

You have to know your way around a computer and the Internet. For example, say you wanted to examine the budget proposal for the State Commission on Correction, which oversees the way state prison and local jails are operated. That would have broad interest in this region.

You’d go to the website, then click on Appropriations, then pull down the menu for Agency Name. Once on Commission on Correction, you’d find listed the fund type (General Fund), fund name (State Operations Account), program name (Improvement of Correctional Facilities), appropriations available for 2012-13, which is this year ($2,915,000), recommended appropriation for 2013-14, which is the budget year under consideration ($2,915,000) and full-time equivalents in the agency for each year (29).

All budget specifics

are now available to everyone. Now, if only the

negotiating process were

as transparent ...