Reinvent Albany Hopeful New Database of Deals Will Evolve and Increase Transparency of $5 Billion/Year in NY State Subsidies to Businesses
Guarded optimism despite addition of many last-minute loopholes
Legislation creating a new Database of Deals (Part NNN) passed with some changes as part of New York State’s FY 2023 budget bill, after inclusion in the Senate and Assembly one-house budgets. We welcome this step forward, but are concerned that numerous last-minute changes could undermine the usefulness of the long-sought subsidy database.
Reinvent Albany thanks Senator Leroy Comrie and Assemblymember Monica Wallace for sponsoring and championing the Database of Deals bill in the budget. We thank Senate leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie for including the Database of Deals in their houses one-house budget bills and winning passage in the budget. We appreciate the extensive, thoughtful work done by past and present Senate and Assembly budget staff. Lastly, we thank Senator Liz Krueger for her energetic advocacy to corral NY State’s massive taxpayers handouts to businesses.
The Database of Deals is supposed to be an easy-to-use public website, operated by Empire State Development, that shows every state subsidy, from dozens of state programs, that individual businesses receive. We believe one of the Database of Deals’s most crucial features is a new, single definition of “job” for all state business subsidy and job creation programs. This uniform definition should allow a direct, apples-to-apples comparison between different subsidy programs.
The Database of Deals will work if the governor and Empire State Development want it to work. Unfortunately, we are concerned about some of the last-minute changes.
- The Database will only be required to include data for subsidies received AFTER 2018. Does this mean businesses that have actually gotten billions in state subsidies will get a clean slate and be shown as having gotten zero state handouts prior to 2018? We understand ESD cannot do a huge historical data collection effort, but this needs work.
- The database will not include job creation numbers that distinguish between full-time, part-time, and contract jobs.
- The database will not be required to include contracts or award agreements. These will now only be available upon request.
- The database will not include a way for the public to view a list of all types and amounts of benefits that a single company has received.
- There is also some ambiguity around how “contract” or “project” jobs will be treated. Will temporary contract jobs, like construction jobs, be deemed full-time even if they are temporary jobs?
- There are loopholes that allow ESD and state agencies to shirk reporting requirements:
- The database will only be required to display awards made by other agencies if it “is received” by ESD in a certain format.
- ESD needs to specify when another state agency has failed to submit required data to the database only “to the extent practicable.”
- Database features are only required “to the extent practicable,” and on varying timelines. This opens the door to ESD to not include some website features required by law. For example, information on total employees must be provided six months from now and only “to the extent practicable.”
- The Database will not be required to report jobs filled by women and minorities at project sites.
Broad Support for a Real Database of Deals
Reinvent Albany and fiscal watchdog groups like Citizens Budget Commission and Fiscal Policy Institute and accountable government groups including NYPIRG, League of Women Voters, Common Cause/NY, Citizens Union and many others have been working for a Database of Deals since about 2015. The Database of Deals has support across the ideological and political spectrum including from Empire Center to the Strong for All coalition:
Unions, watchdogs, advocacy organizations
New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness
Albany County Central Federation of Labor
Alliance for Quality Education
American Economic Liberties Project
Citizens Budget Commission
Common Cause New York
Empire Center for Public Policy
Empire State Indivisible
Good Jobs First
League of Women Voters of New York State
Metro New York Health Care for All
New York Public Interest Research Group
New York Communities for Change
NYC Employment and Training Coalition (NYCETC)
New York Public Interest Research Group
New York State Council of Churches
New York State United Teachers (NYSUT)
Strong Economy for All
NY Daily News
75 Faith and Clergy Leaders