Transparency and New York’s Billions

ALBANY—From the beginning, there has been concern on both the federal and state level about how billions of dollars from the stimulus package will be spent--and just as crucially, how transparent the process will be. 

"The stimulus funds need to be tracked in a timely manner at the state level in order to ensure they are distributed fairly, effectively and with strong standards for ethical and honest use," said Chris Keeley, associate director of the good government group Common Cause. "Making information publicly available online is the most effective way to do that."

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli issued a statement yesterday promising that New Yorkers will be able to track the funds on Open Book New York

The federal government has pledged to make information about where the stimulus funds are going available on the internet. In a recent radio interview Chuck Schumer said of the federal money, "There's not going to be anything hidden, because it's all online, and you're going to have a million eyeballs looking at it."

Much of the $21 billion boost coming to New York is pegged to specific programs, but some of the money will be put into a pot for infrastructure projects that, depending on various law, will be shuffled around the state. With more projects on the wish list than there is money to fund them, a new cabinet of state officials created just for this purpose will determine what gets funded and what doesn't.

Paterson administration officials said yesterday they hope to publish an initial list of infrastructure projects that are eligible, and then, later, complete lists of which ones will be funded. The administration said it would comply with federal guidelines for disclosure, but has yet to say if or how it will take public input.

Paterson spokeswoman Eric Duggan just issued this statement:

This is going to be a transparent process. Until we get the final legislation and understand the federal rules, it's difficult to predict additional state requirements. If additional steps to ensure transparency need to be taken once the federal legislation is reviewed, the state will take those steps.

Transparency and New York’s Billions