N.Y. looks to public for money saving suggestions

The recently established New York State Office of Taxpayer Accountability launched a website Tuesday to provide information about the state’s efforts to cut spending, improve efficiency and save taxpayer dollars. The site also seeks input from the taxpaying public, but remedies must be short and to the point.

Governor David Paterson announced the creation of Taxpayer.ny.gov, the Office of Taxpayer Accountability’s website designed to increase transparency and provide information regarding the state’s use of taxpayer dollars.

“It’s about time the state started taking responsibility for how it spends taxpayer dollars,” Gov. Paterson says in his YouTube welcome message to Taxpayer.ny.gov. State government is too big, too costly, and too inefficient. That’s why I created the Office of Taxpayer Accountability.”

Since its creation in June, the Office of Taxpayer Accountability has taken several measures to cut government spending and improve efficiency, including orders to cut State agency travel by 25 percent, helping to facilitate consolidation among local governments and inter-agency purchasing agreements, and by merging certain State agency operations.

The website highlights several Paterson administration initiatives in sections outlined as, Shared State Services, Local Savings, Local Mandates and Waste, Fraud and Abuse. Beyond the spending caps instituted by Gov. Paterson, shared services and shared purchasing measures undertaken by the administration are noted throughout the website. According to the Taxpayer’s website, through bulk and shared purchasing the State saved $2.6 million in computers and local governments saved another $15.5 million in 2008. Another example says the City of Albany received a $299,000 grant from the Dept. of State to join neighboring Rensselaer County in a cooperative prescription drug plan called NYRx, saving Rensselaer County $301,879 in prescription drug costs for government health care plans.

Taxpayer.ny.gov also seeks input from the taxpaying public. In a section called “Share Your Ideas,” beneath a yellow light bulb, a form asks for specific ideas on how the state can cut government costs and improve efficiency. Ideas must be concise, however. The field designed for Your Idea is limited to just 500 words.

“Government accountability starts with open communication between government and the taxpayers we serve,” Gov. Paterson said in a statement.

Other sections on the website outline a history of Gov. Paterson’s fiscal commitments; how saving taxpayer money is like saving the environment; and how the state is working to tighten its own belt. To learn more, or to submit your own cost-saving ideas, go to http://taxpayer.ny.gov/.

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