Pull Back the Curtains

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Local news over the past few years has had plenty of stories about state government — corruption scandals, employee benefit reforms, and spending battles.

Wouldn’t it be useful to have a way to dig behind the headlines and get the facts about where the state spends its money, what it pays employees, and what are the actual pensions received by state retirees?

Now you do — www.massopenbooks.org — provides detailed salary, pension and state disbursement data.

The disbursement data has multiple layers to filter down to what really interests you, and plenty bubbles up.

Did you know the state spent $6.5 million on office furniture in 2009 or $7 million in the same year for interns at UMASS?

Salaries reveal more interesting facts. What department pays the most? UMASS (across all campuses) is the easily the largest, paying out $978 million in salaries for 2010, dwarfing the next biggest, the Trial Court at $419 million. The smallest — the Commission on the Status of Women — paid salary of only $46,700.

Pension information yields further interesting details. The high watermark for pensions is retired UMASS professor Arthur Pappas (and former part-owner of the Red Sox) who retired in 1999 and currently receives a yearly pension of $232,358.

In terms of number of years retired, almost 10,000 of the 44,000+ pensioners retired 7 or 8 years ago when the state offered generous early retirement benefits.

This is just a sampling of the data available on the site. Go to www.massopenbooks.org and look for yourself. You might be surprised what you’ll find.