Open Checkbook: State vendors in Arlington
Earlier this month, state Treasurer Steve Grossman launched Open Checkbook, fulfilling a campaign promise creating a new window into the inner-workings of government.
The site contains a trove of data, listing every state employee’s salary, the line-by-line spending in each department and even the pensions of state retirees.
Open Checkbook also provides a searchable database of all state vendors – many of which have locations in Arlington.
In the last full fiscal year – fiscal 2011 – a total of 70 Arlington entities received some form of payment from the state. The amount ranged from $2.6 million, paid to Park Avenue Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in the form of Medicaid reimbursements, to $10 paid to Whole Health New England, a medical office and apothecary on Mass. Ave.
Open Checkbook — located at 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.
The website details spending by all agencies funded through the state budget, such as the Legislature, the Judiciary, sheriffs’ departments, all constitutional officers — governor’s office, treasurer, attorney general, auditor, secretary of state — as well as all executive offices.
Jay Gonzalez, secretary of the Executive Office for Administration and Finance, called the website “one step in a long line of steps to try to improve trust in state government.”
“This is going to open up government in Massachusetts in a way it has never been opened up before,” said Gonzalez, who added the website would also help state officials.
“We have not had access to a tool like this before,” he said.
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.
Other spending deemed private, such as payments to foster parents or some spending for ongoing investigations by district attorney’s offices or other law enforcement, will not be included on the site.
Website developers reached out to statewide advocacy groups for advice. MassPirg, Common Cause, the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, the Pioneer Institute and the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation were consulted, Grossman said, adding he expects the organizations to stay involved.
“As well defined as we thought this project was, we knew we needed help,” he said. “And when we are not doing as well as we should be, they will tell us.”
State finance officials anticipate some negative feedback from taxpayers. There is a button on every page that allows users to send questions or comments.
Information from the State House News Service was used in this report.
Who’s getting paid in Arlington?
The following is a list of the top 10 recipients of state money in fiscal year 2012, which is halfway through, and fiscal year 2011, which ended in the summer. The list excludes the town of Arlington, the Germaine Lawrence School, and businesses that received Medicaid reimbursements.
Also seen in Education Next.