Spin Cycle

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The Legislature’s top Democrat said Wednesday lawmakers are rankled by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo attempt to control of discretionary economic-development spending through panels he appoints.

The issue of Cuomo’s regional economic development councils is one of the final sticking points in state budget negotiations. Lawmakers hoped to reached a tentative deal today and enact a budget by the end of the weekend.

Cuomo created the regional economic development councils in 2011, his first year in office. He said the panels, charged with devising a local consensus with how to use state funds, would be an improvement over a piecemeal process in which individual legislators handed out grants — often derided as “pork-barrel” spending. Legislators have quietly complained that the new process merely shifted control of the political pork to the governor. The councils have made two rounds of awards.

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Cuomo has proposed increasing funds earmarked for the councils. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) said lawmakers want more of a role.

“There’s a concern that the governor is attempting to expand the role of regional economic development councils to the exclusion of the Legislature,” Silver said after a meeting with the governor and other legislative leaders.

He noted that most council members “are not subject to any rules or regulations” as legislators are and questioned whether the councils should have extensive power over spending.

“It’s a question of taking over appropriation authority in its entirety,” Silver said.
The governor has provided for legislators to sit on the councils. But Silver said he rarely got any information on the council he was a part of.

“Sitting at every meeting, I had no idea [what] groups were even applying,” Silver said. Asked if he didn’t get enough information, he said: “I don’t know if there was any information offered.”