Weekly Feature

2017-06-14 / Local News

Assemblyman introduces legislation to create searchable database

Assemblyman Robin Schimminger has recently introduced legislation that would create a searchable database — open to the public — of state economic development benefits, including subsidies, given to various entities.

Schimminger, who chairs the Assembly’s Economic Development Committee, says greater transparency and accountability are needed for the state’s economic development programs.

“It is absolutely essential that the state’s economic development programs are administered in a responsible, transparent and open manner and that the performance of the programs can be reliably and accurately measured,” said Schimminger, adding, “Policymakers and the public need to be able to make informed decisions about the future allocation of the state’s resources.”

Entities receiving state assistance sometimes receive incentives from multiple state programs, which can have different reporting requirements, making it difficult to track how much assistance any given entity is receiving.

According to a press release from Schimminger’s office, this makes program metrics murky, inviting criticism and scrutiny in the openness of the state’s programs.

The database would be created by the Urban Development Corporation in cooperation with the Department of Economic Development, both agencies currently functioning together as Empire State Development.

In addition to the database, it would be required that the UDC post to its website that it has completed the reporting requirements and that it provide updates on a quarterly basis.

To date, six other states have created and are using searchable databases allowing citizens to review programs administered by the state, according to the release.

“Without a database of deals, nobody knows who is getting what from state taxpayer subsidies, from what state programs and how much those various subsidies are worth. Without a database of deals, the public can’t see how many jobs our taxpayers are buying, or how much each of those jobs cost, or if businesses are holding up their ends of the bargain,” said John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany.

David Friedel, director of state studies at the Citizens Budget Commission, said, “This legislation will enhance transparency and introduce some much-needed accountability to the state’s multi-billion dollar economic development programs.”

“Are New York taxpayers getting a good return on investment for billions in economic development spending? That’s really the question that needs to be asked,” said Ron Deutsch, executive director of the Fiscal Policy Institute.

“Assemblyman Robin Schimminger’s common sense bill will ensure New York is no longer behind other states like Wisconsin, Florida, Indiana, Illinois, North Carolina and Maryland, which already have websites that bring various subsidies together in a single, downloadable database and disclose the outcomes of the spending. There is no reason New York can’t provide the same level of transparency and disclosure.”

“The creation of a comprehensive, searchable database of state subsidy and economic development benefits would provide New York State citizens and policymakers with an important tool to monitor the use of taxpayer money to grow our state’s economy and create and retain jobs. The public deserves to know whether their money is being invested wisely and whether they are receiving an appropriate return on their investment,” Schimminger added.

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