For the last six years, good-government organizations in New York have called for the creation of a "database of deals" -- an online clearinghouse of economic development agreements put in place by state officials and the private sector.
This month, a half dozen watchdog groups once again reignited the push to create the database through the Empire State Development Corp, the main government entity charged with generating job creation.
"As fellow New Yorkers, we are deeply sympathetic to the disruption and distress caused by COVID-19. That said, ESD has had plenty of time to get this done," the groups wrote in a letter. "We have been calling for fundamental improvements in transparency and accountability for State subsidies – including a Database of Deals – since 2015."
Signing onto the letter to Empire State Development were the organizations Reinvent Albany, Citizens Budget Commission, Citizens Union, Common Cause New York, League of Women Voters of New York State and NY Public Interest Research Group.
Calls for the database began after a massive pay-to-play corruption case involving upstate New York developers who were involved in the Buffalo Billion economic development program. The case would also draw in former SUNY Poly President Alain Kaloyeros and Joe Percoco, a former close aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The governor himself was never accused of any wrongdoing.
But the case gave added scrutiny to economic development projects in New York, their cost to taxpayers and how those contracts are struck. The database, good-government advocates have argued, would provide more sunlight on how the state encourages companies to create jobs, often through large tax incentives.
"Six years after a billion-dollar scandal is much longer than New Yorkers should wait for the state to be more transparent about its economic development programs," the letter states.