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NY's Industrial Development Authorities Fail to Create Jobs

New York's 578 public authorities have a total debt of $269.9 billion. (Authorities Budget Office)
New York's 578 public authorities have a total debt of $269.9 billion. (Authorities Budget Office)
July 12, 2017

ALBANY, N.Y. - The billions of dollars spent on Industrial Development Authorities in New York are not creating "measurable benefits," according to a new report.

The latest Authorities Budget Office report found significant problems at many of the 578 public authorities now operating in New York. These public authorities are often created to work outside the state budget process to spur economic development. While the number of authorities has grown by 200 percent in less than 20 years, Alex Camarda, senior policy consultant for Reinvent Albany, said they simply are not doing what they were supposed to do.

"While most authorities exist for the purposes of economic development, they have no direct impact on private-sector job growth, whatsoever," he said. "We think that's a real indictment of the very purpose of many of these authorities."

The report found the three counties with the highest number of projects approved by local authorities showed growth in private-sector employment, but at levels below the state average.

While authorities get money from the state, they also can issue bonds and currently have a combined total debt of almost $270 billion. Camarda called that a real problem for transparency and accountability.

"It's not honestly portraying the debt and obligations that the state owes," he said, "which is a real burden on taxpayers, particularly over time as the amount of debt accumulates."

The report also said almost half of procurement money spent by local authorities is not subject to competitive bidding and it identifies a number of serious ethics violations.

These problems persist despite major reforms in 2005 and 2009, Camarda said, so the solution may be to stop creating more of them.

"We would like to see fewer authorities," he said. "We would like to see their responsibilities and duties centralized, and there should be a real reduction, particularly in local development corporations."

He said many responsibilities now entrusted to public authorities could be taken on by state agencies.

The report is online at abo.ny.gov.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY