It’s Your Money

I believe that transparency in state spending is crucial to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent as wisely and efficiently as possible. That is why I sponsored legislation to expand the public’s access to state spending records and to reform Pennsylvania’s budgeting process while monitoring spending and increasing accountability in state government. This page is designed to help make basic spending information easily accessible.

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Senate Budget

Fiscal Year

Senate Approp.

General Fund Budget

Senate as a % of General Fund

2005-06

$108,334,000

$24,664,610,000

0.44%

2006-07

$103,167,000

$26,298,095,000

0.39%

2007-08

$103,167,000

$26,968,310,000

0.38%

2008-09

$101,827,000

$28,323,830,000

0.36%

2009-10

$92,075,000

$27,640,543,000

0.33%

2010-11

$93,682,000

$28,139,791,000

0.33%

2011-12

$93,298,000

$27,030,539,000

0.35%

2012-13

$93,598,000

$27,730,574,000

0.34%

2013-14

$95,003,000

$28,375,869,000

0.33%

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Since taking office in the Senate in May of 2005 and as Senate Majority Whip, one of my primary goals has been to make information about state government — particularly government spending — more easily accessible to the public.

The Senate has taking many steps to assure openness and transparency in state government. Here are some initiatives that I sponsored and that the Senate passed to further that goal:

PennWATCH: Online Budget Database

Act 18 of 2011, which I helped write and which I sponsored a Senate companion bill for, requires the creation of a complete online state budget database known as PennWATCH. This database, designed to make details of state spending easily and freely accessible, became available on December 20, 2012.

Independent Fiscal Office

Pennsylvania’s new Independent Fiscal Office, created by Act 120 of 2010, which I wrote and sponsored, fundamentally reformed Pennsylvania’s budgeting process while monitoring spending and increasing accountability in state government. Independent Fiscal Office (IFO), a non-partisan, bi-cameral agency with expertise in financial matters. The IFO would develop state revenue estimates and have access to the same agency and department financial information as the Governor’s Budget Office. The office’s responsibilities include preparing annual revenue estimates, providing an annual assessment of the state’s fiscal condition, developing performance measures for state programs, and analyzing tax and revenue proposals made by the Governor or the Office of the Budget. More information is available at the IFO’s website.

Open Records Law

Pennsylvania’s new Open Records Law (Act 3 of 2008), makes many government records easily available to interested residents. Information about how to request records from any state executive branch office or local government office is available from the Office of Open Records. Information about requesting records from the Senate, the House and the state Judiciary is also available.

Online Contract Database

Pennsylvania’s new Open Records Law also created an online contract database. State contracts valued at $5,000 or more are included in this database, which can be searched by agency, contracting party, contract amount, date and subject matter.

Gubernatorial Nomination Data Online

As Vice Chairman of the Senate Rules and Executive Nominations Committee, I supported the creation of a website which includes information about every nomination made by the Governor. The website, which is separated into cabinet nominations and other nominations, includes every nominee’s Statement of Financial Interest and current status.

Sunshine Law: Tougher Penalties

Act 56 of 2011 strengthens penalties for violating Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Law, which requires public access to open meetings and the opportunity for public comment.

Senate Rules of Ethical Conduct

On June 15, 2010, the Senate adopted a set of Rules of Ethical Conduct to make the division between legislative and campaign work clear, to provide annual ethics training and to establish strong penalties for violations.

OTHER SOURCES OF INFORMATION

In addition to those listed above, the following resources provide additional information designed to make the operation of state government more transparent and accountable.

Live Senate Video Feeds

Senate sessions can be viewed from any computer with an Internet connection using the Senate Session Live feed at the Senate’s website. A similar feed is available for House sessions.

Online Bill Room: Roll Call Votes and Fiscal Notes

The General Assembly’s website now includes links to fiscal notes for those bills that have been considered by the Senate or House Appropriations Committee. You can also access the roll call votes for every bill considered in a Senate committee, in a House committee, on the Senate floor or the House floor.

Website for Mobile Devices

I supported the creation of a General Assembly website for mobile devices such as the iPhone, iPad, Android-based devices, and the BlackBerry. Visitors can use the site to search for bills by number or keyword, to read bill text, to access information about legislative committees, to watch or listen to Senate and House sessions and to contact members of the General Assembly.

Lobbyist Disclosure Reports

Pennsylvania’s Lobbying Disclosure Law, Act 134 of 2006, requires lobbyists and principals (the companies and individuals who hire lobbyists) to file quarterly reports. The Department of State maintains an online database of lobbyists, principals and the required reports.

Statements of Financial Interest

The Governor, members of the General Assembly and other public officials are required to file Statements of Financial Interest with the State Ethics Commission. The Statements of Financial Interest are all available on the Commission’s website.