NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

December 8, 2011

New website details state spending, employee pensions

BOSTON — Massachusetts taxpayers will soon be able see in far greater detail how much and where most state tax dollars are spent, according to state officials.

A new "open checkbook" website launched this week puts a larger portion of the state's finances online, including payroll information, retiree pension checks and vendor payments.

The site — www.mass.gov/opencheckbook — was created as part of a two-year project, a collaboration of the state treasurer's office, the secretary of administration and finance, the state comptroller, and the director of the recovery and reinvestment office. The site cost the state $1.8 million.

It includes a wide variety of searchable material — for instance, taxpayers can find out how much former city and school employees are making in pensions, how much state employees make and details on vendors who provide services to the state.

About 15 million payments made during the past two fiscal years are said to be listed on the site, with pie charts and percentage breakdowns. Payment information to more than 50,800 vendors will be accessible through a search engine that allows users to type in a name or department to have a peek.

Quasi-public agencies that do not receive direct state budget appropriations, such as Massport, MassHousing, the Convention Center Authority and education collaboratives are not included.

Spending by the MBTA, part of the state's consolidated transportation agency, is also not part of the site.

Secretary of Administration and Finance Jay Gonzalez said the MBTA and quasi-public agencies are not part of the state's accounting system, but he hopes to include them in future versions of the website.

Other spending deemed private, like payments to foster parents or some spending for ongoing investigations by district attorneys' offices or other law enforcement, will not be included on the site.

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