The salaries of hundreds of thousands of state employees can now be searched through an online database set up by a private institution. The Web site, SeeThroughNY.net, is the creation of the Manhattan Institute's Empire Center for New York State Policy, and allows users to search state payroll records, contracts, and expenditures, as well as legislators' member items, commonly referred to as "pork."
According to a senior policy analyst for the Empire Center, Lise Bang-Jensen, the Web site is meant to make government more accountable by allowing state residents to easily see how their tax money is being spent.
"Once the taxpayers are provided with more information, they will be more able to engage in the debate over how their money should be spent," Ms. Bang-Jensen said yesterday. "Most people know very little about how their school budget is spent, say, or any number of things in the state budget."
Using the database, users can see the salary of everyone from Governor Paterson, who makes $179,000, to his staffers, such as the secretary to the governor, Charles O'Byrne, who makes $178,500. Students at City University of New York and the State University of New York can look up the salaries of their professors.
All the information in the database is already publicly accessible through state and local government, but can sometimes require lengthy Freedom of Information Law requests to obtain, making the Web site a more convenient way to search. The Empire Center is planning to expand the database to include city and county employees as well.