Magnarelli: Assembly Passes Bill to Provide More Public Oversight of State Contracts

February 2, 2006

It’s time to bring openness and transparency to the state’s shadowy world of government contracts. Taxpayers expect that their state government will be responsive and accountable to them. In an effort to keep a better eye on how tax dollars are being spent, the Assembly passed legislation I supported which will provide greater public disclosure and review of state government contracts with private consulting services (A.9421).

This legislation would:

  • require an annual report by the Department of Civil Service to reveal the number of employees hired contractually to perform services for state agencies;
  • expand the types of contracts for consulting services that are required to be reported and to include information about the number of employees hired under those contracts; and
  • call for more reporting and public disclosure of information for other contract services.

State agencies contract out consulting services involving millions of dollars of public funds each year. Currently, these contracts are subject to little public disclosure or oversight. Since the governor took office the state has awarded over 10,000 separate consultant contracts totaling at least $6 billion between 1995 and 2004, according to the New York State Comptroller’s Office.

While the state’s workforce has lost more than 20,000 positions during the course of his tenure, the governor has increasingly sought to outsource those jobs previously done by the state’s professional civil service staff to expensive private contractors. In fact, it would be less expensive to hire state workers to do the same work in-house and New York taxpayers could save up to $500 million a year by stopping the practice of hiring certain consultants, according to a 2005 study by the Fiscal Policy Institute.

In 2005, the Assembly and the Senate passed the Disclosure and Accountability Bill (A.6542) – which also would have provided for greater public disclosure of state government contracts – but it was vetoed by the governor in October.

The Assembly has once again acted to reform state government and ensure that tax dollars are going to worthwhile endeavors. Now we need the Senate and governor to show some leadership and pass this legislation. It’s what New York’s taxpayers deserve.