The envelope, please …

by Tim Hoefer |  | NY Torch

Governor Cuomo’s method of unveiling economic development “awards” is certainly a triumph of branding, hype and stagecraft, complete with special guest emcee Maria Bartiromo. But stripped of the glitzy new wrapping, the $716 million in projects announced yesterday comprised a familiar-sounding mix of industrial development bond (IRB) allocations, state-financed infrastructure projects, tourism promotion subsidies and plain old pork-barrel grants— the sort of thing that Albany has been doling out piecemeal for decades now.

The new wrinkle in the Cuomo approach to economic development spending since he took office in 2011 is the purportedly strengthened role of regional economic development officials and business leaders in deciding how a goodie bag of (largely borrowed) money will be distributed. Even now, however, regional council priorities actually carry just a 20 percent weight in a final “scoring” process that, for all intents and purposes, is ultimately controlled by the governor.

While traditional member items are supposedly a thing of the past in the “New New York,” there was a distinct aroma of bacon to some of the items on the latest list, such as:

  • $150,000 to establish the “New York Golf Trail” as a tourism promotion for the Capital Region;
  • $234,000 for the Baseball Hall of Fame to design a mobile app;
  • $360,000 to induce the Toy Industry Association to bring its Toy Industry Hall of Fame to Rochester;
  • $74,000 for a “semi-staged” performance of Béla Bartók’s one-act opera “Bluebeard’s Castle” at Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo;
  • $100,000 to help bring the “renowned circus arts innovators” Cirque Eloise to Proctor’s Theater in Schenectady;
  • more than $12 million to construct or enhance hotels around the state; and
  • myriad regional economic development marketing and promotion proposals.

On the other hand, the Cuomo administration apparently does not share its predecessors’ appetites for Cheese Museums.

What about the impact?

All of this stuff is supposed to help create new jobs. But while the governor yesterday cited “immense progress that has already been made in revitalizing our economy and putting New Yorkers back to work,” the latest data from the state Labor Department don’t seem to bear this out. During the latest 12-month period, New York State has created new private sector payroll jobs at a slower rate than the nation as a whole, and upstate private employment has grown at less than half the national average.



- Tim Hoefer is the Executive Director at the Empire Center for Public Policy.