Jobs for tax breaks? Group wants an accounting
Nearly 80 union officials, liberals and community activists demanded Tuesday that state leaders hold businesses more accountable for the jobs they promise to create in return for tax breaks and other incentives.
"We call on you to roll up your sleeves and take on the hard task that has eluded previous governors and legislatures: transforming the state's often wasteful and ineffective economic development system into a refocused job-creation program," activists said in an open letter to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and leaders of the legislature's majority conferences.
Politicians, the letter said, should stipulate that companies receiving state aid pay "family-sustaining wages for local residents" and that regions not poach employers from one another. Empire State Development Corp. and other agencies must be able to "recapture" tax incentives from businesses that don't keep job and investment pledges, the activists stated.
The letter also called for more details about development deals to be publicly disclosed. It alleged "corporate subsidy programs" cost state and local governments more than $8.2 billion in tax revenue last year.
Some of the proposals in the letter mirror planks in Cuomo's 2010 gubernatorial campaign platform. He called for establishing 10 regional councils to devise development plans for their respective regions and to compete for a portion of the $1 billion in tax breaks and grants given to companies each year by the state.
The councils, which will be supervised by Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, were included in the $132.5-billion state budget approved on March 31.
However, some activists said Tuesday they were frustrated by the Cuomo administration's reticence to disclose the councils' composition, procedures and other specifics.
"It's been four months since the inauguration, and we need good jobs," said Kristi Barnes of the Alliance for a Greater New York. "We really expected to hear more details by this time about how the regional councils would function."
Cuomo spokesman Joshua Vlasto did not provide a comment by press time.
Scott Reif, an aide to State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), said, "We agree with the concepts outlined in this letter" and will work with Duffy on implementation of the councils.
Michael Whyland, a spokesman for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), said he "welcomes the input [of letter writers] and looks forward to working with the various stakeholders to make these economic development councils effective and responsive to the needs of the communities they serve."
Seven local groups signed the letter, including the Long Island Progressive Coalition. Its director, Lisa Tyson, said the creation of good-paying jobs must be a top priority of the councils. "If we don't fight . . . this is just going to be a gift to corporations for them to make higher profits and for the community to continue to suffer."