Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick (R,C,I-Smithtown) is promoting legislation (A.10531) that would impose more oversight and transparency over the governor’s discretionary spending, much of which has come under the guise of economic development. Fitzpatrick pointed to the developing federal investigations of the Buffalo Billion and SUNY Polytechnic scandals involving the governor’s office, and the START-Up NY program, which has missed its reporting deadline of April 1, as prime examples of why such legislation is needed.
“The governor is pouring billions of public dollars into his pet economic development programs, but taxpayers receive little in return. There is insufficient oversight to discourage bid-rigging and other potential abuse of taxpayer funds, and the agencies tasked with reporting to the public flagrantly ignore reporting deadlines,” said Fitzpatrick, a member of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee. “It is time for stricter oversight on the governor and his political appointees when it comes to large lump-sum program spending.”
The legislation Fitzpatrick supports would make several key changes. First, it would address the lack of oversight on lump-sum discretionary spending. In the recent 2016-17 Enacted Budget, which Fitzpatrick voted against, the governor gave himself more than $2.6 billion in discretionary spending. The legislation would create a three-person board consisting of the director of the Division of Budget, the comptroller and the attorney general to oversee any lump-sum spending that costs more than $1 million. It would also prohibit the disbursement of state funds to anyone with a conflict of interest, including the governor, legislators, their family members or anyone else sharing a home with those elected officials.
Fitzpatrick also noted that the legislation penalizes the governor, an administering agency’s commissioner and deputy commissioner by withholding their salaries if reports on lump-sum program spending and programs like START-UP NY fail to meet their deadlines. The bill would require a comprehensive review of all state economic development programs and the tax code. Lastly, the legislation would prohibit individuals and their families serving as appointees who distribute discretionary state funds from making political donations to the appointing authority.