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More than a dozen organizations — ranging from non-partisan watchdog groups to progressive groups and labor unions — are pushing for changes in how New York spends $5 billion in subsidies meant to grow jobs, but often fall short of expectations and transparency.
The organizations, led by the good-government group Reinvent Albany, urged top lawmakers in the state Senate and Assembly as well as Gov. Kathy Hochul to take up the changes as they negotiate a $216 billion budget plan expected to be approved next week.
"We ask you to champion and pass the basic transparency measures below as part of your efforts to restore public trust in state government," the groups wrote in a letter released Tuesday. "We are sure you agree that the taxpaying public, which is everyone, has a right to know how our elected government spends our money."
The organizations are calling for a range of measures that are meant to expand transparency and oversight of economic development spending as well as safeguards against graft.
The measures would create a centralized database of subsidy spending, which critics have alleged are often difficult to track. The measures would also give more authority to the state comptroller’s office to review subsidy approval.
Non-disclosure agreements would be prohibited in subsidy and economic development arrangements, while a standard budget for such deals would create a uniform process for applying for tax incentives.
Legislation to apply for more sunlight to economic development in New York has stalled at the Capitol over the last several years. The 2015 arrests of prominent upstate developers associated with then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion economic development program did not lead to any broad-based legislative changes in how subsidies are dolled out by the state.
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