A coalition of progressive organizations and good-government watchdogs is urging state lawmakers to consider more oversight for economic development programs as well as make changes so they are more accountable to taxpayers.
The proposals come as the state Senate is set to hold a public hearing later on Friday on the state's business subsidies and incentives in order to better determine their effectiveness.
The groups, which include Common Cause New York, the Fiscal Policy Institute, the League of Women Voters of New York State, New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, New York State Council of Churches, the New York Public Interest Research Group, Reinvent Albany and the Strong Economy for All Coalition, called on lawmakers Friday morning to boost transparency in the programs meant to create jobs, but have often fallen short.
"We believe the state’s heavy reliance on tax incentives as an economic development strategy is a misguided approach," the groups wrote in a joint statement. "Instead the state should reevaluate, reform and redefine our economic development system. And this hearing is a step in the right direction."
New York state and local governments spend a combined $10 billion a year on economic development programs. Though meant to grow the economy in the state and create jobs, their success rate in many instances are often unclear.
Advocates are once again calling for a database to track business subsidies and incentives handed out to the private sector in New York, pointing to a 2017 audit by the state comptroller finding the state failed to meet more than half of the required reporting for tax credit and job creation programs.
At the same time, the groups wrote the state's investments could be better served elsewhere in the budget.
"Rather than chasing smokestacks or throwing tax cuts at business, we need to redefine the state’s economic development policy to be focused on smart investments that improve the economic climate," the groups wrote. "We must acknowledge that what ultimately makes for the best business climate is investments in public schools and institutions of higher education, labor force development, childcare, homecare, affordable housing, transportation, parks, and other infrastructure that build a skilled labor force and attract business owners and workers based on quality of life."