Evidence keeps proving that the billions Gov. Cuomo shells out for “economic development” are being wasted — when not being used corruptly. Yet Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie continues to sit on bills that would shed light on the outlays.
With the corruption trial of Alain Kaloyeros, a key player on Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion economic-development team, slated to start Monday, Tesla just announced a 9 percent cut to its workforce.
Tesla, having subsumed the bankrupt SolarCity, owns the plant built with $750 million in state funds as part of the Buffalo Billion scheme and makes solar panels there.
True, CEO Elon Musk (who recently won himself an astronomical $2.6 billion pay deal) hasn’t said whether the ax will fall on the Buffalo workers.
But the solar industry has been dicey for years. Indeed, along with the job cuts, Tesla announced that it’s ending its deal to sell solar-power systems at Home Depot. Not exactly encouraging news.
Tesla’s SolarCity unit trimmed its sales efforts last year, and the number of megawatts it put into service fell 38 percent from 2016. That fueled a 16 percent national drop in residential solar-panel sales.
Firing workers at the Buffalo plant would truly sting: In exchange for that $750 million cash bath, the company was supposed to create 1,500 jobs but has just 600 now. If it can’t support even that many, the monster handout will prove an even bigger boondoggle than it already is.
Meanwhile, prosecutors say Kaloyeros steered the contract to build the Buffalo plant to a developer who just so happened to be a major Cuomo donor, Louis Ciminelli. The builder earned (stole from taxpayers may be a better term) $20 million to manage the job.
That sordid tale is just part of the waste and corruption that’s been the hallmark of the governor’s $4 billion a year funding for projects promoted as boosting the economy.
Just this month, Brewery Ommegang, a beer maker in Cooperstown, is marking the reopening of its cafe and visitors center after a $2 million fix-up. Want to guess where nearly a quarter of that cash came from? Yup: New York taxpayers.
OK, maybe the brewery promotes tourism. But it’s a private firm. Why is it getting public money?
All of which has got to make you wonder why Heastie is blocking two bills to make handouts like these more transparent.
One would require all economic-development subsidies to be listed in a database, along with the number of jobs promised. The other would let the state comptroller review contracts, like the one to Ciminelli, beforehand. The Senate passed both bills overwhelmingly.
Then again, if it weren’t for lawmakers like Heastie, Cuomo might not get away with wasting so much taxpayer money in the first place.
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