Five Subsidy Stories You Might Have Missed This Week


1. In the Buffalo Bills stadium negotiations, there’s one crucial branch of NY government missing: the legislature. The Buffalo News talks to multiple Buffalo-area legislators to get their thoughts on a deal that may cost the state and Erie County more than $700 million, and whether the legislature should have a say. Legislators’ views are all over the map.

“A generational decision like this shouldn’t be made in the dark,” said Assemblyman Pat Burke, a Buffalo Democrat whose district includes the team’s present and proposed future home in Orchard Park. “There needs to be greater transparency, and elected state representatives of the people most impacted by this decision ought to have a seat at the table.’’

2. NY Creates, a state-affiliated nonprofit, is getting rid of more than $200 million in equipment the state purchased for the Buffalo RiverBend manufacturing plant. The equipment was bought with funds from Buffalo Billion. Governor Hochul called the news “disturbing and unacceptable.”

NY CREATES, the state-associated non-profit overseeing RiverBend, confirmed it is getting rid of equipment originally valued at $207 million while keeping about $32 million of what it owns. It won’t say how much the return has been so far because it doesn’t want to negatively impact negotiations in progress or future negotiation, but a source said it won’t be near the original value.

3. An audit of Empire State Development by Comptroller DiNapoli found that ESD was not meeting reporting requirements for its subsidy programs – such as proof of job creation.

The Comptroller’s office looked at the Excelsior Jobs Program and START-UP NY that showed positive results but when auditors asked for paperwork to support the claims of success, Empire State Development was unable to come up with documentation.

4. At Boondoggle, Pat Garofalo writes about why local news coverage of subsidy deals can be frustrating, with lines that are literally copied and pasted from corporate press releases.

It’s not uncommon at local news outlets for one reporter to be responsible for several towns at once, if not more … So to get the same output — never mind increasing it, which a publication’s leaders usually want in order to increase page views — journalists have to write more stories in less time, which means less critical coverage, because critical coverage takes more time and effort. A very quick and easy story to write is “city council or economic development board voted to give X, Y, and Z to a company which promises to create 1,000 jobs.”

5. Good Jobs First has some recommendations for improving GASB77,an accounting rule that established how state and local governments should report funds lost through economic development deals.

As promising as [GASB 77] is, there remain significant deficiencies: compliance is uneven, and the intended data is too often missing or misleadingly reported. We at Good Jobs First think the rule, Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) Statement No. 77 on Tax Abatement Disclosures, could be much stronger.

Correction: Last week’s Subsidy Sheet erroneously labeled Julia Salazar an “Assemblymember.” Salazar is a State Senator representing parts of Brooklyn. Apologies to Senator Salazar for the oversight.

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