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Yankee Institute Shines Light on Taxpayers’ Dollars

By Michael Walsh

The Yankee Institute launched a new Web site on Monday that allows Connecticut residents to look up the salaries of every state employee, every retiree’s pension and every vendor payment made by all state government departments and agencies.

CTSunlight.org is the culmination of a new project from the Yankee Institute after a massive Freedom of Information Act request for data covering calendar year 2007 and 2008. The Connecticut based think tank was formed in 1984 by Bernard Zimmern, a French entrepreneur, and is currently one of America’s oldest think tanks. The institute is now located on the Trinity College campus.

“We believe transparency and disclosure of how government spends tax dollars puts downward pressure on spending, which in turn keeps taxes low,” said Fergus Cullen, the Yankee Institute’s Executive Director, in a press release issued by the Yankee Institute on Monday.

The Web site, named because the institute believes that “sunlight is the best disinfectant,” shines a light on the salaries of state employees ranging from Connecticut State University System professors to the highest paid employees of the University of Connecticut Health Center.

The highest salaries on the Central Connecticut State University campus include President Jack Miller, who made $292,088 in 2008, and men’s basketball coach Howie Dickenman, who made $236,748 in 2008. Following was Dr. Patrick Russolillo, a psychology professor and licensed psychologist, who made $183,285 in 2008. Russolillo taught two sections of one graduate psychology seminar in developmental psychology in the Spring 2008 semester and one section of the same seminar in the Fall 2008 seminar.

The Web site, which the Yankee Institute said was made as a tool for citizens, taxpayers, journalists and elected officials, aims to enhance the knowledge of the general public. For example, 1,137 state employees are paid more than the governor and 175 retired state employees collect pensions of more than $100,000 a year.

“The more people who use the site, the greater the likelihood that someone will notice something that will save taxpayers money,” Cullen said in the press release.

Residents can also easily look up how much money was spent on food and beverage purchases by state government departments and agencies. In 2008 the state spent $2,582 at various Dunkin’ Donuts locations and the Department of Corrections spent $2.8 million on milk from the Guida Dairy.

The Web site also holds data for a variety of other purchases made, such as the $3,193 spent on hotels in Nevada by the state in 2008 and the $10,609 spent at the National Amusements cinema in Berlin, Conn. by the Department of Developmental Services in 2009.

This is the first time these facts are publicly available online.