Part 1: Growing concerns about industrial development agencies in New York
ALBANY, NY (Erie News Now)--New York's INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT AGENCIES ARE UNDER INCREASING SCRUTINY FOR HOW THEY SPEND MONEY.
MORE THAN 100 OF THE INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT AGENCIES---OR IDA’S---OPERATE AROUND THE STATE. THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO PROVIDE TAX BREAKS TO COMPANIES THAT GENERATE JOBS AND HELP BOOST NEW YORK’S ECONOMY.
BUT SOME LAWMAKERS ARE TROUBLED BY ALLEGED MISMANAGEMENT AND LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY.
“Right now, in many counties, and many communities it is the wild west. They feel like and in many cases unfortunately they can do whatever they want and get away with it with little to no accountability,” said Sen. James Skoufis (D-42nd Senate District).
FOR EXAMPLE, IN CHAUTAUQUA CoUNTY, THE STATE FOUND THE IDA THERE MISUSED NEARLY TWO MILLION DOLLARS IN PUBLIC FUNDS FOR INAPPROPRIATE ITEMS RANGING FROM HOLIDAY DINNERS, GIFTS, EVEN CAR ALLOWANCES AND GOLF CLUB MEMBERSHIPS, ACCORDING TO AN AUDIT REPORT FROM THE STATE’S AUTHORITIES BUDGET OFFICE.
THE NEW YORK STATE AUTHORITIES BUDGET OFFICE HELPS PROVIDES OVERSIGHT OF IDA OPERATIONS. The aCTING DIRECTOR of the State Authorities budget office, Jeffrey Pearlman, said LOCAL IDA BOARDS MUST BE RESPONSIBLE FOR TRACKING EXPENSES.
“Golf memberships don’t pass the smell test,” he said.
PEARLMAN ADDed THE AUTHORITIES BUDGET OFFICE GIVES ida recommendations IN THEIR REVIEWS TO HELP GUIDE THEM APPROPRIATELY.
“They shouldn’t be out there getting golf memberships. Nonetheless, we have to kind of look at it and do our analysis and make the recommendation in a review,” he said.
SINCE THEIR REVIEW, THE CHAUTAUQUA COUNTY IDA INSTITUTED REFORMS AND CHANGES.
SEN. SKOUFIS WANTS THE LEGISLATURE TO TAKE ACTION AND ADDRESS IDA PRACTICES.
“That type of behavior is egregious, and frankly it's disgraceful and it is emblematic of how some IDA’s don’t have any respect for the fact that this is public money,” he said.
IN ADDITION TO ALLEGED MISMANAGEMENT OF THE CHAUTAUQUA COUNTY IDA, SKOUFIS POINTS TO A SENATE COMMITTEE INVESTIGATION THIS PAST SUMMER THAT UNCOVERED INFLATED JOB PROJECTIONS FROM ORANGE COUNTY’S IDA. SKOUFIS BELIEVES THAT SOME OF THE ACTIVITY WAS ILLEGAL.
HE IS INTRODUCING LEGISLATION THAT WOULD REFORM IDA PRACTICES AND INCREASE ACCOUNTABILITY.