New York’s economic growth strategies attract attention | Local News

ALBANY — New York’s premier economic development agency came under fire at a legislative hearing on Friday for awarding billions of dollars in incentives to private companies without determining what the returns on those investments should be.

Senator James Skoufis, D-Woodbury, chairman of the Senate Investigations Committee on Government Operations, expressed frustration and disappointment with what he described as a litany of ‘failures’ at the Empire State Development (ESD), a state government authority under the control of the governor’s office.

Specifically, Skoufis questioned whether taxpayers benefit from the controversial $450 million film tax credit program, which was set up to encourage film and television studios to produce films and broadcasts in the state.

He also said the county’s industrial development authorities had escaped scrutiny, noting that there are examples of companies making false claims on applications for government incentives, such claims have never been investigated.

When asked by Skoufis, Hope Knight, Governor Kathy Hochul’s nominee for Empire State Development president, said her agency lacked investigators to verify the claims of incentivized candidates.

Skoufis replied, “I encourage you to use investigators because these companies lie all the time, in my experience, to get benefits they don’t deserve.”

Knight has been the head of the economic development authority since late October, when she was appointed by Hochul. Knight will face a Senate confirmation hearing in Albany later this month.

Skoufis stressed that he was not criticizing his performance, but rather the work that was done under former Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration. Cuomo resigned abruptly in August amid an impeachment inquiry.

Skoufis expressed disappointment that Knight did not list any remedial steps she plans to take to bring greater accountability to state business incentives.

When Knight appears at the confirmation hearing, the senator suggested, “You need to acknowledge past failures and make it clear to people like me and like-minded colleagues what you’re going to change at ESD.”

New York’s tough business climate was also discussed, with State Sen. Tom O’Mara, R-Big Flats, saying “we’re overwhelmed by just about every state in the country” with businesses urged to flee to the states. with growing economies.

O’Mara said the state should focus on retaining and strengthening small businesses, calling them “the backbone of the economy,” while noting that some of the biggest ESD-backed projects don’t did not meet expectations.

Michael Kink, executive director of Strong Economy for All, a progressive labor-backed advocacy group, said economic development grants in New York City have turned into “an incredibly urgent crisis.”

“The government is taking $10 billion a year and setting it on fire in the name of economic development,” Kink said, saying there has been no tracking of the financial return on the investments and the jobs created have been extremely expensive.

Kink said the money could be better spent helping communities by channeling funds toward housing, child care and public education.

Meanwhile, union leaders representing workers in the film and television industries have told lawmakers that incentives in New York have created thousands of well-paying jobs.

Thomas O’Donnell, president of Theatrical Teamsters Local 817, said: “There’s an absolute explosion of content production. It’s because of all these streaming services coming online. There’s more content than I’ve never seen one in my career. . And I think we have a great opportunity to capture even more work in the future.”

Cuomo was a strong advocate of Hollywood corporate tax credits. Last year, in an unusual move, the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences presented him with an Emmy Award for his COVID-19 briefings.

But the academy stripped Cuomo of the award a day after he resigned and Hochul was sworn in as the new governor.

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