Transparency Watchdogs Urge Legislative Leaders
To Publish Notifications of Reduced or Withheld State Payments
To Local Governments and State Contractors
Groups Say COVID Era Emergency Budgeting Actions Need to be Public
Five government watchdogs sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Heastie today asking that the legislature publish online the withholding notifications sent by the Division of Budget as soon as they are received. The groups said that publishing the notifications online will allow New Yorkers to see how public services are being affected during the budget crisis.
To date, notifications have not been made public, and were first seen by local governments, state vendors and journalists when the Empire Center published them in a blog post on September 16th. The groups say publishing the DOB notifications online is a basic transparency measure given the major impact on the public and local governments of large budget cuts caused by the COVID-19 emergency. (Last week, four of the groups and CBCNY wrote a similar letter to Governor Cuomo.)
The letter to legislative leaders is available here and below.
October 1, 2020
Re: Basic Budget Transparency During COVID-19 Crisis: Please Publish “Withholding Notifications” from Division of Budget on Senate and Assembly Websites
Dear Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Speaker Heastie,
We write to ask that you publish on the Senate and Assembly websites the withheld payments notices sent to you by the Budget Division. In the interest of basic public transparency and accountability, we ask you to publish these DOB notifications promptly after they are received. Our groups believe these DOB notifications are of great interest to the public because they allow New Yorkers to assess how the state and local government services they rely on are being affected during the budget crisis.
Section 1(f) of Chapter 53 of the Laws of 2020 requires the budget director to notify the legislative leaders of payments to be withheld. However, these notifications have not been shared with the public despite the impact the payments have on New Yorkers’ lives. The DOB notifications our groups have seen were published on September 16th by the Empire Center, a nonprofit fiscal watchdog group. The Empire Center was provided the letters by the Senate following a request. (See link below.)
We ask you to publish past and future notifications on your websites as the letters are received in the coming months. Thank you for your help on this matter.
Common Cause New York
Laura Ladd Bierman
League of Women Voters New York State
Senator Liz Krueger
Assemblymember Helene Weinstein
Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt
Assembly Minority Leader William Barclay