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Let poor report card inspire action

Let poor report card inspire action

New York lawmakers and governor have the power to improve state government. Why don't they?

In sports, they call it "bulletin board material."

Whenever an opponent says something insulting about your team, you tape it to the bulletin board in the locker room and use it as inspiration to play your best.

State lawmakers should use the latest report from the Center for Public Integrity as bulletin board material to finally make the improvements our state government needs.

The center’s State Integrity Investigation gives New York a grade of D-minus in terms of accountability and transparency, placing the Empire State 30th on a list of 50 states judged on all the same criteria.

If your kid brought home this report card, he'd be grounded for a month. But New York lawmakers face no such punishment, as if the findings have no bearing on how they do their jobs or how the state serves its residents.

Our governor and state lawmakers should be embarrassed by this report.

They should be ashamed to show their faces among us, knowing that in almost every category of government performance, we got our butts handed to us by the likes of Alabama and Kentucky and Tennessee and Iowa and New Jersey. New Jersey!

The report examined state effectiveness in 13 areas, including ethics enforcement, budgeting, transparency, political financing, internal auditing, pension-fund management and accountability.

To come up with its grades, the center contacted dozens of state-level organizations and experts working in the areas of good government and public-sector reform.

New York did poorly in most areas, generating a failing grade in six of the 13 categories: public accessibility to information, electoral oversight, judicial accountability, state budget process, ethics enforcement and procurement.

We didn't do much better in political financing and legislative accountability, garnering a D-minus. The best we could muster was a B-plus in internal auditing. Guess every kid has to take gym, right?

How is it that we New Yorkers are among the highest-taxed residents of the country and yet the government we get for our money consistently ranks among the worst?

And who's holding us back from doing better? The people we put in office to run the government: our governor and our legislators. And they're the only ones who can fix it. So why don't they?

Let's take one category where we did particularly bad. Transparency. Grade: F.

How hard would it be to get a positive response to the questions that were asked? How hard is it, for example, for state government to respond to requests for public information in a timely manner? How difficult would it be to make government responses to Freedom of Information Law requests public or to monitor responses and punish those who fail to uphold the open government laws? Would it be that difficult to swing that score from a 25 to a 75?

Now let’s work on bringing up another F by improving our grade in the state budget process. In that category, we ranked dead last in the entire country. Number 50 out of 50.

Would it really overwhelm the political powers that be to require legislative approval for significant government expenditures, or to ensure the Legislature has the ability to sufficiently monitor its own budget process? Can it be too difficult to allow the citizens access to the budget process, the outcome of which they ultimately pay for? How about ensuring more balanced political representation on budget committees? Can't the Republicans let a few Democrats sit in, and vice versa?.

Put this report up on the bulletin board of the governor's office and in the office of every legislator in the state.

Let them face it every day. Let them get mad. Then let’s see them finally do something about it.

To read the entire report and see how our state ranked compared to others, visit this website: http://www.publicintegrity.org/2015/11/09/18477/new-york-gets-d-grade-2015-state-integrity-investigation.

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