Reinvent Albany FY 2023 Budget Review


First Look at Select Ethics, Transparency, Accountability, and Business Subsidy Measures
in FY 2023 State Budget 

Transparency and Accountability Measures We Supported

  • New, independent Ethics Commission (Not passed). A new “Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government” (CELG) was introduced in the budget to replace JCOPE, but was opposed by watchdogs, including Reinvent Albany, because it lacks the independence needed for effective oversight of elected officials and is politically controlled by the Governor and legislative majority leaders. 
  • Database of Deals (Passed with new loopholes). Since 2014 we’ve been advocating for a public database of state business subsidies that itemizes everything a business gets from NY taxpayers and allows the public to see an apples-to-apples cost per job. We hope this new database evolves and is able to overcome numerous last minute loopholes.
  • MTA Capital Dashboard (Passed). Codifies the MTA’s existing capital dashboard; requires a public website and open data to track MTA’s capital projects. Reinvent Albany supports further improvements to require contract numbers and vendor data, and better identify accessibility and resiliency projects.
  • Full Restoration of the Comptroller’s Contract Oversight (Did not pass). A strong Comptroller’s office helps reduce corruption, fraud and waste. The comptroller’s authority to approve or “pre-audit” oversight of some contracts was removed in 2011/12. 
  • Contracted Audit of Economic Development Programs (Passed). A truly independent audit overseen by the state comptroller would be a great idea. Unfortunately, we are not optimistic about a “lowest responsible bidder” chosen by the Department of Taxation and Finance, and are concerned this well-intended bill could open the door to a whitewashing of wasteful business subsidy programs.
  • More funding for the Authorities Budget Office ABO (Passed in part).
  • Funding for Public Campaign Finance Board (PCFB) (Passed in part). The $20.53 allocated for the PCFB is a good start ($10.53 for admin and $10 for matching funds), but the state should have gone much further and provided an additional $20 million for matching funds, as the Brennan Center, Reinvent Albany and many others urged.

Political Gimmick/Raids on Dedicated Funds

  • $8 billion in Slush Funds (Passed). Out of $10 billion in lump sums we and others opposed, a $6B unrestricted “public health emergency” pot and a $2B restricted “special emergency” pot that is “solely for transfer by the governor” were included in the final budget, both of which are exempt from Comptroller review.
  • $585 million Gas Tax Holiday (Passed). We opposed, with transit, anti-poverty and environmental and government watchdogs because gas tax proceeds support mass transit dedicated funds.
  • $23 million in Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) Funds (Restored). The final budget restored RGGI funding, no longer transferring them to the state’s general fund, which we opposed. We also support legislation to prevent raids on RGGI funds.

State Subsidies to Businesses We Specifically Opposed (Or Should Have Opposed)

  • Buffalo Bills Subsidy (Passed). We strongly opposed. Despite overwhelming data showing stadium subsidies are a waste of money, the state will give $880 million in taxpayer funding to the billionaires who own the Buffalo Bills.
  • Extension of 421-a NYC real estate tax abatements (Did not pass). We opposed, with many, many others. A surprise.
  • Close the Opportunity Zone loophole by passing S6800 (Gianaris) / A8081 (Dinowitz) (Did not pass). We strongly supported. NYS tried to end the state tax break for developers created by the Trump administration’s “Opportunity Zone” program in the FY 2021-22 budget. That legislation includes a giant loophole that will begin costing NY billions in 2029. Lawmakers can close the loophole by passing S6800/A8081.
  • Expansion of Dormitory Authority lending powers (Did not pass). We opposed an executive budget proposal to massively widen the lending powers of the Dormitory Authority to include nonprofits and others. (TED bill, Parts DD through HH). All but one of these sections was removed from the final budget (Part DD).
  • $1.3 Billion, Three year extension of Film/TV Tax Credit 2026 to 2029 (Passed). NY provides $420 million a year in direct subsidies to the companies making films and TV shows in NYS.
  • New $5 Million Digital Gaming Tax Credit (Passed). We did not formally oppose, but will now. The new “Empire State Digital Gaming Media Production Credit” for companies involved in video game production. The gaming market is valued at hundreds of billions of dollars.