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E.J. McMahon sees “greatest potential threat to transparency and accountability” in budget

Posted By Joseph Spector On February 14, 2013 @ 10:05 am In Other | Comments Disabled

A proposal in the state budget would eliminate reporting requirements to the state for all local governments and schools starting next year.

[1]E.J. McMahon, a senior fellow for the Empire Center for New York State Policy, ripped the proposal, saying it would eliminate school-report cards that are published by the state Department of Education and provide valuable information about districts’ spending and tax rates.

“I think there is enormous potential for mischief in this. This poses the greatest potential threat to transparency and accountability in government in New York in the modern era,” McMahon told Gannett’s Albany Bureau.

The proposal would give Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Mandate Relief Council control over which local entities report their financial data to either the education department or the Comptroller’s Office.

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli also knocked the proposal in his budget analysis yesterday.

“This change could result in the elimination of currently required annual reports on the financial condition of local governments and school districts that are filed with the Comptroller,” his report said. “The information in these reports is essential for monitoring potential fiscal stress in more than 2,300 local governments and school districts across the state.

Budget director Robert Megna defended the proposal, saying it would be a way to remove a mandate on local governments and schools. He said the Comptroller’s Office could petition the state to get the books of any local government.

“Our proposal is relatively straight forward and is tied to mandate relief, which we now is very much on the mind of local governments all across the state,” Megna said in a conference call with reporters yesterday. “We want to eliminate unnecessary and unneeded reports that are bogging down local government and only the most necessary reports continue.”

McMahon rejected Megna’s argument, saying that the reporting isn’t burdensome.

“You’re basically letting the governor decide, to basically eliminate in one fell swoop, all the data that people have access to -– all the comparative data on schools and local governments,” McMahon said.


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