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Good-Government Groups Call for Contracting Reform in 2019

More than 30 New York state lawmakers have been forced from office for ethics violations or criminal convictions. (LoveBuiltLife/Pixabay)
More than 30 New York state lawmakers have been forced from office for ethics violations or criminal convictions. (LoveBuiltLife/Pixabay)
January 4, 2019

NEW YORK – Government watchdogs are urging New York State to finally pass legislation to fight corruption in state contracting.

Massive corruption scandals have rocked the Empire State, including the convictions of some of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's top aides and campaign contributors. But legislation has stalled for the last two years that would to allow the state comptroller to review contracts with state-affiliated nonprofits, and create an open database of state subsidies to businesses.

Alex Camarda, advisor with Reinvent Albany, says the database would allow public scrutiny of state and local economic-development subsidies totaling some $8 billion.

"It would provide transparent information as to which companies receive benefits, how many benefits they received, what type of benefits they received, and to see if they're really producing the jobs that they say they're going to," says Camarda.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie had hoped to reach agreements with the state Senate and the governor, but recently indicated he may allow the Assembly to vote on the measures.

According to Camarda, Gov. Cuomo has promised contracting reform but has resisted legislative efforts, especially a bill to let the state comptroller review contracts before they're executed.

"That's something that we think is vital and would have prevented these corruption scandals that we've seen, had the comptroller been able to review the contracts before they went out the door," says Camarda.

Cuomo says the reforms would hinder development upstate. Instead, he has advocated creating new inspectors general and special prosecutors to police contract corruption.

But Camadra believes that with changes in Albany, including Democratic control of the state Senate for the first time in a decade, there is new potential for progress on a whole range of reforms.

"I think it's really incumbent on the governor and the lawmakers to seize the moment and show that they can transform Albany, which has really been plagued by scandals now for decades," says Camarda.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY