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Not transparent enough; Cuomo administration should let public know how it will meet spending targets

A governor who rode into office promising openness and transparency following a stint as state attorney general has been less than forthcoming about how nearly all state agencies will meet his mandate to cut operating expenses by 10 percent this year.

Following several inquiries by The Buffalo News to dozens of agencies, Albany Bureau Chief Tom Precious recently reported on the wall that now seems to be blocking some information from reaching the public.

The administration is talking about transparency without fully embracing the concept. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo should remember that transparency is good for the public, which has a right to information, and for his own image.

The lack of information about the $950 million in planned agency budget cuts is in stark contrast to the full disclosure by the previous governor, David A. Paterson, who detailed the specific impacts of cuts on state parks to the public. That didn't win him any popularity contests, for sure. But he made the information available.

All the Cuomo administration will release is a statement indicating the budget-cutting exercise at agencies is well under way. We think that's good, but we really don't know because we have no idea of the details of the plan to reduce operating expenses at all state agencies by an average of 10 percent. And no details seem to be forthcoming.

With the exception of the court system -- a separate branch of government, which in April began releasing details about how it would meet its spending cut target of $170 million -- most agencies have either been mum or mumbling.

It's hard to imagine that this far into the fiscal year that agencies don't know how they're going to meet those cuts. Those agencies should want to spread the cuts out as much as possible, rather than jam them in at the last minute.

E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center for New York State Policy, a conservative think tank, said: "The bottom line is they've got to hit their numbers." We think the public deserves to know how they're going to do it.

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