Contact: Mike Fraser, office: (518) 455-3751/cell: (518) 859-8518
Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,C,I, Ref-Canandaigua) and the Assembly Minority Conference today called for the passage of sweeping reforms to address corruption in Albany and increase transparency in the state's scandal-ridden economic development programs.
"Who is protecting the taxpayers' money? Right now, apparently no one," Leader Kolb said. "New Yorkers deserve to know where their money is going. A year ago, our Conference proposed substantial changes to shine a light on how Albany spends public dollars. Despite corrupted programs, and investigations and arrests, absolutely nothing has changed. It is imperative that the governor and legislative majorities demonstrate a commitment to doing things the right way."
"There needs to be significantly more transparency and accountability over the distribution of taxpayer money," said Assemblyman Robert C. Oaks (R,C-Macedon). "This year's budget was a missed opportunity to enact meaningful reform measures that would have diminished political influence and provided stronger oversight of all economic development funding. To reduce opportunities for corruption, as we saw with the 'Buffalo Billion' project and at SUNY Polytechnic Institute, New York needs to institute measures that adequately oversee state-funded projects. Taxpayer funds must be invested appropriately in order to help create jobs, implement career paths and cultivate the business growth that New York desperately needs."
"In order to gain back the trust of New Yorkers, we must make every effort to ensure future economic development investments are done fairly and with complete transparency," said Assemblyman Raymond Walter (R,C,I-Amherst). "The time for reform is now. People across this state deserve to know how and where their hard-earned money is being invested. With nine days remaining in the legislative session, our Conference is urging the Legislature to pass measures aimed at protecting New York's taxpayers and holding economic development officials accountable for the ethical distribution of funds."
The Assembly Minority has introduced legislation to ensure more checks and balances are included in the state's economic development spending practices. Specifically, the bill (A.5657-A, Oaks) would:
- Establish a three-member committee to review and approve allocations that originate from lump-sum appropriations; the committee would be comprised of the comptroller, attorney general and budget director;
- Implement reforms to the budgeting process so conflicts of interest are identified, appropriations are prohibited when such conflicts exist, and require all appropriations to be lined out with specific details provided;
- Conduct an independent, third-party study of the state's economic development programs and the impact of streamlining the tax system;
- Institute penalties related to late economic development or lump-sum appropriation related reports by state agencies;
- Prohibit certain political contributions by individuals appointed to entities charged with distribution of discretionary state funds; and
- Prohibit using third-party not-for-profits for state bidding and purchasing purposes.
In addition, the Minority Conference has called for ethics reforms that change the culture of corruption in Albany and curtail the accumulation of power that led to the convictions of two legislative leaders. Those changes include:
- Implementing eight-year term limits for legislative leaders and committee chairs;
- Replacing the Joint Commission on Public Ethics with a new, independent five-member Commission on Official Conduct;
- Prohibiting the spending of campaign funds for criminal defense fees; and
- Creating a new crime of failure to report corruption.