End Of Session Must Focus On Ending Corruption In Economic Development Spending

Legislative Column from Assemblyman Marc W. Butler (R,C,I,Ref-Newport)
June 4, 2018

The economic development programs touted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo have been vehicles of corruption, with certain individuals gaming the system to make a buck on the public dime. Such is the case with one of Cuomo’s former top aides, Joe Peroco, who was found guilty of accepting bribes, and Alain Kaloyeros, who will face trial for bid-rigging in relation to the Buffalo Billion economic spending. Adding insult to injury is that none of the programs Cuomo put forward delivered on the promised job or economic growth. Not even close.

I am not here to say that economic development funding, breaks or programs are bad. Our region, which is full of potential due to skilled laborers, abundant resources and the real estate to grow and develop, would benefit greatly from a little additional attention and investment from the state. However, between corruption and lack of accountability, our public dollars have been watered down in their effectiveness and haven’t been focused toward needed areas.

With what little time there is in the legislative session, one of the most important things we could accomplish for New York is to pass legislation to put in place good practices to stop wasteful economic development spending, thus ensuring public funds are going where they are needed most.

I, along with some of my Assembly Minority colleagues, sponsor legislation A.5657-A, which would put in place these badly-needed reforms to create better oversight and transparency regarding state economic development programs and spending.

Our bill would do the following:

  • Establish a three-person oversight committee, including the comptroller, the attorney general and the director of the Division of Budget to evaluate state lump-sum spending of $1 million or more and determine any conflicts of interest;
  • Require such spending to be lined out in detail and require a vote by the legislature;
  • Prohibit political contributions by those overseeing such funds;
  • Oversight would also extend to lump-sum funds spent by public authorities;
  • Withhold salaries of the governor, agency commissioner and deputy commissioner for failures to submit reports required on lump-sum spending, such as START-UP NY;
  • Prohibit the use of state-affiliated not-for-profits, such as Fort Schuyler and Fuller Road, unless permitted by law or authorized by the state comptroller; and
  • Require lump-sum spending by the SUNY Research Foundation to also be under the review of the three-person oversight committee.

We also must keep in mind that an unstable and corruption-filled government makes private businesses and investors leery of wanting to do business in New York in the first place. The longer New York’s economic development programs are allowed to run without any checks of the governor’s power or oversight, the further the state jeopardizes its reputation among potential and existing job creators. With only a few weeks left to the legislative session, economic developments reforms need to be passed.

I welcome input on this or any other legislative topic. Constituents are urged to contact me by emailing me at butlerm@nyassembly.gov or by calling my district office at 315-866-1632.