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Legislature aims to curb Cuomo’s economic development power

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo talks about providing financial

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo talks about providing financial resources for combating the heroin epidemic during an event in Hauppauge on Wednesday, April 19, 2017. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

ALBANY — The State Legislature is considering legislation that would force business and academic leaders whom Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo appoints to his regional economic development councils to release personal financial data required of state officials to avoid conflicts of interest.

Another measure would enact the “New York State procurement integrity act.” That would provide more oversight of Cuomo’s awarding of contracts by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, an elected official who at times has sparred with Cuomo over contracting issues.

Each bill is scheduled for debate on the Senate floor this week.

The bill addressing Cuomo’s economic development councils notes Cuomo has “the unrestricted ability to appoint” the members who guide the Cuomo administration in awarding billions of dollars of tax breaks and aid to companies that agree to stay in New York, expand or relocate to the state. Cuomo presents the awards in a gala each December in which the 10 regions of the state compete for the aid through economic development plans developed by some of the regions’ top CEOs and college presidents.

The data can include ranges of salaries, salaries and places of employment by spouses, and investments. The ethics forms are required to be filed annually.

Cuomo’s regional councils, begun in 2011, drastically reduced the input by legislators to direct that aid to their districts. Cuomo criticized that past practice as pork-barrel spending, while legislators said they know best what is needed in their districts through input by constituents. Legislative leaders chose not to participate in recent rounds of awards.

The bill has been introduced in the Assembly and Senate.

“Because the individuals who are unilaterally appointed by the governor are not subject to the financial disclosure requirements of the Public Officers Law, there is no means of ensuring that these individuals are serving the best interests of the state, and not engaging in self-serving activities,” the bill states.

If passed, the bill would go to Cuomo for his signature or veto, which the legislature could try to override.

A Cuomo spokesman declined to comment.

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