Assemblyman: It’s time to ‘protect’ taxpayers from economic development corruption

Something has to be done to protect taxpayers.

That was the message from New York State Assemblyman Bob Oaks (R-C-Macedon) who launched a public advocacy campaign for a series of economic development reforms, which he believes should take place before the end of the legislative session.

According to Assemblyman Oaks, the purpose would be to create greater oversight, transparency and accountability related to
economic development programs and lump sum appropriations, and to study the impact of streamlining the tax system and economic development programs.

Most notably the bill suggests the creation of a lump sum allocation advisory committee, requiring more detailed information related to lump sum appropriations, instituting penalties related to late economic development- or lump sum appropriation-related reports by state agencies, conducting studies to reduce tax rates and simplify the economic development assistance programs of the state.

It would also prohibit certain political contributions by individuals appointed to entities charged with distribution of discretionary state funds, and prohibit public authorities from using third-party entities as an intermediary for state procurement initiatives.

“The budget was a missed opportunity to enact meaningful reforms to protect taxpayers’ investment in economic development, but we still have two months to reach an agreement and enact the reforms that are necessary to ensure greater oversight and accountability of state spending without the types of corruption that we have seen related to projects like the ‘Buffalo Billion’ or the SUNY Polytechnic Institute,” said Oaks, who is the sponsor of the omnibus legislative package in the state Assembly. “This is my highest legislative priority.”

Oaks’ economic development reforms include creating a three-member panel comprised of the Comptroller, Attorney General and Budget Director to oversee and approve state contracts and check for conflicts of interest. Additionally, his plan would examine existing economic development programs to ensure that programs are producing results for the taxpayers who fund them.

His plan creates new reporting requirements to track the progress of state-funded projects and to reduce opportunities for corruption.

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