Op-Ed: Bringing a new era of economic development to New York

Originally published in Ken-Ton Bee

As a new legislative session kicks off, I am excited for the new opportunities I will have in my second term in the State Senate. Chief among those new opportunities is my role as the chair of the Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Economic Development and Small Business.

Throughout my time in elected office, I have consistently opposed wasteful subsidies for major corporations. I intend to let this philosophy on economic development guide me in this new assignment, and I look forward to bringing a Western New York perspective to the committee.

Most of the $4 billion of spending overseen by the committee pays for programs administered by Empire State Development. ESD’s role is to grow the state’s economy by encouraging business investment and job creation. However, in the past, ESD often failed to prioritize good-paying jobs in its efforts to attract businesses to New York. This has led to wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars on projects like SolarCity that have not had the economic impact to justify the cost.

Moving forward, I want our state’s economic development system to be more transparent, have more oversight, and focus more on the long-term quality of jobs that are created by our spending. The bottom line is that the interests of the taxpaying public need to be prioritized over the interests of large corporations.

One of my biggest priorities this year is passing two bills I have introduced to reform the way business subsidies work in New York. The first bill (S.89) would prevent industrial development agencies from waiving school taxes to attract companies to their municipalities. New York State is experiencing a teacher shortage, and many schools lack the resources to attract and retain educators. These incentives regularly take money out of the pockets of our school districts to pay for projects with dubious economic benefits, and students are the ones who suffer.

The other bill (S.127) would prevent IDAs from giving tax incentives to massively profitable companies in exchange for low-paying warehouse jobs. Here in Western New York, we have seen municipalities offer Amazon huge subsidies in an effort to get them to build warehouses in the area. It resulted in a bidding war pitting local municipalities against one another, with the “winner” getting a preposterously low return on investment in the form of low-wage jobs.

There is a delicate balance we need to strike; bringing new business into Western New York is an important element in ensuring our region’s continued economic prosperity. We just need to make sure we are reserving these subsidies for projects that create family-sustaining jobs, and that we are not wasting money on projects that would be built even without the incentives.

These are just a couple of the ways that I intend to continue to work on behalf of all New Yorkers to make sure our tax dollars are not going to waste. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to help create a stronger, more prosperous state, and I look forward to the year ahead.