Bill to Regulate Economic Development Projects Championed by the Governor Clears Hurdle in Albany

Creating a possible power struggle in the state capitol, a bill requiring more oversight of Governor Andrew Cuomo has cleared an important hurdle in Albany. Zack Fink filed the following report.

Without much fanfare, but by a unanimous vote, the state Senate's Finance Committee on Tuesday advanced a bill that would put more scrutiny on Governor Andrew Cuomo's economic development projects.

The legislation would restore powers to the state comptroller that weren't applicable on certain projects.

"That's one of the reasons there is a comptroller. But we eliminated that in some of the governor's economic development programs, and that was a big mistake," said state Senator John DeFrancisco of Syracuse. "Quite frankly I don't know if I voted for it. If I did, I must have been sleeping at the time."

The bill also has support from Democrats, including Senator Todd Kaminsky, a former federal prosecutor.

"I think from top to bottom in our state, we want to have as many eyes and as many auditing professionals as possible looking at our state contracts," Kaminsky said. "People want to know that money is going to the right place."

Last fall, 10 people were arrested and charged with corruption while working on upstate economic development projects initiated and promoted by Cuomo. One of those arrested was Joe Percoco, one of Cuomo's closest former aides.

"Our groups, both fiscal and good government groups, believe is the best, most comprehensive approach to address the procurement scandal that we saw this past fall," said Alex Camrada of Reinvent Albany.

Assembly Democrats are also considering the bill, even though Cuomo opposes it.

"Like I said, you know me. I like to bring these things to the conference and see what they say. I guess in this day and age, making sure that tax dollars are protected and spent correctly is an admirable goal," said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

Procurement reform was not part of the state budget, and earlier this month, Cuomo claimed that many reforms to the procurement process have already been made. Some lawmakers are already discussing an override should Cuomo veto the bill.

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