Assemblyman announces legislation to help the public follow the money and bring sunlight to state spending in the shadows; Citizens Union, Empire Center, League of Women Voters and NYPIRG applaud Tedisco’s leadership in introducing new bill
Assemblyman Jim Tedisco (R,C,I-Glenville) today announced new anti-corruption “Truth in Spending” legislation that has the support of 40 sponsors so far, and which will require the executive and legislature to fully disclose how any public funds they allocate are spent and where the money comes from.
A new report “Spending in the Shadows” by Citizens Union found “$2.4 billion in opaque funds in 80 ‘lump sum’ pots in the state budget” which allow spending decisions to be made without an appropriate level of transparency, scrutiny and review after the budget has passed. Dick Dadey, Executive Director of Citizens Union, and Tim Hoefer, Executive Director of the Empire Center, were present at the event to show to support for Assemblyman Tedisco’s leadership in bringing greater transparency to state spending decisions. Barbara Bartoletti, from the League of Women Voters, and Blair Horner, from NYPIRG, also are offering their support for Tedisco’s efforts.
The “Truth in Spending” legislation (bill # pending) is a response to the numerous public corruption scandals that have rocked the state Capitol to its core over recent months through lack of transparency in budget allocations, due to shadow spending where some leaders and members gamed the system. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said, “If you want to prevent corruption, don’t enable it. If you want to deter corrupt members, don’t become their willing accomplices.”
“The taxpayer’s dollars and the state budget is not the leader’s own personal piggy bank. This truth in spending law is the hammer to smash open that piggy bank and act as a magnifying glass to create total transparency to see where the money comes from as allocated in the state budget and how it’s being spent. When it comes to legislative earmarks, taxpayers, media and all elected officials have a right to be able to follow the money and know who ordered the pork,” said Tedisco. “This ‘Truth in Spending’ law will have the most transparent set of guidelines for public spending and taxpayer budget allocations in the modern day history of New York.”
Tedisco’s “Truth in Spending” bill requires member items, discretionary funds, and so-called “lump sum payments,” for all legislators, which have been controlled by the Speaker of the Assembly, Senate Majority Leader and Governor and negotiated in many instances behind closed doors, be made public and fully transparent within the state budget for rank and file legislators, the public and media to review. Specifically, the “Truth in Spending Bill” would require:
- all legislative earmarks are for a public purpose and are clearly outlined within the state budget for members, the public and media to review at least three days before being voted on.
- notification before the budget is passed and after the funds are distributed, detailing the purpose of the earmarks, who will receive the money, and which legislative districts are impacted.
- the Governor and legislators to sign sworn conflict of interest disclosure forms before any recipient receives state funds. Such conflict of interest form shall require disclosure of all political donations received within the past five years by such official from the intended recipient of appropriated funding if the cumulative amount of such donations were made within the past five years if aggregate is $4000.00 or more.
- recipients must attest under penalty of perjury that their organization actually spent such funds in the manner and for all the purposes designated in the application for allocation.
- publicly posting spending allocations, signed disclosure forms, memorandums of understanding and contracts online in an easy to read and analyze format on both the State Comptroller’s website and the Assembly and Senate website.
- recipients seeking state funds must be certified as tax-exempt non-profit organizations under section 501 (C) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code in New York State, a state agency, a municipality or their affiliated department, university, college, or school district and that such entity is not in bankruptcy or arrears on any state obligations.
“With Citizens Union releasing its report, Spending in the Shadows: Discretionary Funding in the NYS Executive Budget, this week, we are pleased that Assemblymember Tedisco is stepping out in front of this issue,” said Dick Dadey, Executive Director of Citizens Union. “We welcome his leadership on this by introducing legislation to bring greater transparency and accountability to the budgeting process.”
“Hard-working New Yorkers are entitled to know how, why, when and by whom their tax dollars are being spent. The ‘Truth in Spending’ Act would lift the veil of secrecy that continues to cover much of the pork barrel allocation process in Albany, making it easier for taxpayers to hold elected officials more accountable for their decisions,” said Tim Hoefer, Executive Director of the Empire Center.
“The League of Women Voters supports Assemblyman Tedisco’s Truth in Spending bill and hopes that it will both deter corruption in our state government and provide much needed transparency,” said Barbara Bartoletti, Legislative Director of the League of Women Voters of New York State
“We welcome Assemblyman Tedisco's 'Truth in Spending Act' as another example of the growing rank-and-file chorus for reform in Albany,” said Blair Horner, NYPIRG's Executive Director. “Taxpayers deserve a strict accounting of how their money gets spent and the Assemblyman's proposal properly focuses on too hidden state spending. We hope this legislation triggers a debate over the need for greater budget transparency.”
“This bill allows legislators, the public and media to weigh-in on the appropriateness of these allocations before the budget is passed to better engage citizens in this representative democracy. This measure moves us toward the goal of achieving stronger ethics reform for the Executive and Legislature, along with providing greater transparency, accountability and public trust,” said Tedisco.