When New York Governor Kathy Hochul took office in August, she promised greater transparency and accountability. But over the past seven months, good government groups have argued that she has dropped the ball on these issues. They point to her voluminous fundraising from individuals and groups who have business before the state, as well as the $850 million deal she just struck with the millionaire Pegula family for a new stadium to house the Buffalo Bills.
Now a coalition of groups including the New Yorkers for Tax Fairness, the New York State Council of Churches, and unions affiliated with SUNY and CUNY say the public is losing faith in state government. , and in particular, how New York State uses taxpayer dollars under the umbrella of economic development.
Ron Deutsch, director of New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, and Reverend Peter Cook, executive director of the New York State Council of Churches, said capital tonight that the $10 billion the state is currently spending on an array of economic development programs largely benefits millionaires, billionaires and big business.
“For a very long time, we have been trying to restore some confidence in our economic development system. It’s been marred by scandals, indictments, lackluster results, to say the least, and we just don’t have a good idea of how that money is spent each year. said Deutsch.
The coalition recently sent a letter to the governor, saying the state’s lack of transparency around economic development spending is hurting the state as a whole.
“We represent 7,500 congregations across New York State and care deeply about transparency when developing our budgets at congregational meetings,” Reverend Peter Cook said. capital tonight. “It’s just baffling to us that we can’t expect the same level of accountability from our state government.”
According to Cook and Deutsch, it’s time to redefine what New York sees as economic development. Instead of “giving taxpayers’ money to the rich,” they propose redirecting that money to investments in childcare, housing and higher education.
“All of these programs would have a better return on investment,” Cook said.
The coalition expects the legislature to adopt the long-proposed “deals database” that would create a searchable web portal for the public to access information on economic development deals; a restoration of the controller’s pre-verification authority; and independent analysis of Empire State development programs.
“I really think…this call for transparency really raises a much bigger question about how we invest taxpayers’ money and what real economic development is,” Cook said.