“Santa Cuomo” doled out his yearly regional economic-development goodies last week, even as fresh studies debunked the governor’s pretense that all this “investment” is anything more than pork.
Headlining Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s gift list, as The Post’s Carl Campanile reported, was $3.5 million to help build the world’s first rap museum in the South Bronx.
The Universal Hip Hop Museum is already open in temporary quarters, aiming to move into its final $80 million, 50,000-square-foot home in 2023. It received $6.5 million in city funds and has financial help from Microsoft and MIT as well as from hip-hop artists such as Nas and LL Cool J. Did it really need a boost from a state government facing nearly $30 billion in budget holes over the next few years — $6 billion next year alone?
Indeed, that question applies to all $760 million in “economic development” grants Cuomo announced, much of them for dubious projects like yet another downtown Albany parking garage.
Meanwhile, the Citizens Budget Commission dropped a report slamming Cuomo’s entire Regional Economic Development Councils scheme — noting that it suffers from a clear lack of any meaningful strategy for actually promoting growth, exacerbated by weak to nonexistent reporting on how projects actually proceed (let alone succeed).
The same week, a state Senate investigation led by James Skoufis (D-Newburgh) noted that state “economic development” efforts via public authorities similarly lack adequate oversight and all too often fail to deliver the promised economic growth. Yet these authorities have amassed over $280 billion-with-a-B in debt.
Politicians love public authorities because they can borrow outside the debt limits imposed by the state Constitution. That’s why the state (by best count) now has 583 of them, more than double the number in 2008.
And the 2008 level was way down from a few years earlier, because the Legislature in 2004 passed the Public Authorities Accountability Act to address their near-total lack of oversight and “creative” accounting practices in the wake of an alarming report from the State Comptroller’s Office that flagged their then-$120 billion in debt.
Oops: Skoufis, recall, found $280 billion in debt, which means authorities have more than doubled their debt load in the 15 years since the Legislature “cracked down.”
“If there’s one takeaway from our investigation,” Skoufis says, “it’s that taxpayers deserve far more accountability and responsibility with their money.” He calls it “a system that’s desperate for wholesale reform.”
If he can get the Legislature to act, as he vows, then lawmakers can take on the lunacy of Cuomo’s personal “AndyLand” pork projects.
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