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State contract transparency bills languish in Assembly, GOP says

ALBANY — Two bills to provide more transparency in how the state doles out billions of dollars in contracts and tax incentives to companies passed the State Senate in May, yet have not been brought to the floor for a vote in the Assembly, Republicans said Wednesday.

The Senate passed the Procurement Integrity Act to make state contracting more transparent by a 60-2 vote and a “database of deals” bill that would allow New Yorkers to search online for companies receiving tax breaks by a 62-0 vote.

In the Assembly, each bill is sponsored by veteran Democrats in the majority that runs the chamber. But neither bill has moved to a floor vote.

“It’s rare,” said Assemb. Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue). “It makes you wonder what’s going on.”

Assembly Republican leader Brian Kolb (R-Canandaigua) said he believes he knows: “It can only mean that Governor Cuomo is leaning on the Assembly majority and promising them something.”

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi denied the governor is pressuring Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) to keep the measures from floor votes.

“The Assembly is its own coequal branch of government,” Azzopardi said.

Heastie spokesman Michael Whyland said the conference will continue to discuss the bills, but didn’t comment further.

Next week, the second major corruption trial this year will begin, involving some of Cuomo’s biggest economic development projects, which provided tax breaks and other incentives to companies, some of which were big Cuomo campaign contributors. Cuomo’s former top aide and a longtime associate were convicted in an earlier corruption trial this year.

The procurement bill would restore some of the oversight of state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli over state contracting. DiNapoli said that authority, including the power to “pre-audit” contracts, protects tax dollars and avoids conflicts of interest and fraud, but Cuomo has argued the added layer of review was unnecessary and too slow for the pace of attracting employers and expanding businesses.

“State Comptroller DiNapoli’s proposal would go a long way to improve accountability and transparency on how taxpayer money is used,” said Jennifer Freeman, spokeswoman for the Democratic comptroller. “By restoring oversight stripped from the comptroller’s office and shining a spotlight on how economic development money is spent, we can deter wrongdoing and make sure the system is fair for all stakeholders.”

The legislative session is scheduled to end June 20.

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