A little-known state board approved nearly half a billion dollars for Governor Cuomo's troubled economic development plan known as the Buffalo Billion on Wednesday. State House Reporter Zack Fink explains why what should have been a routine vote was anything but routine.
In an obscure ground floor conference room at the State Capitol, the state's Public Authorities Control Board quietly voted to approve $485 million in taxpayer money for Cuomo's controversial Buffalo Billion project.
The board is controlled by state leaders including Governor Cuomo who defended both the procedural vote and the Buffalo Billion program earlier this week.
"These economic development programs in upstate New York are vitally important," Governor Cuomo said. "And have worked extraordinarily well. Well, there are questions about what one or two people did. All right, let's find out what those one or two people did."
The Buffalo Billion is currently under investigation by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. At issue is whether bid rigging and improper lobbying took place surrounding the program. Former Cuomo aide Joe Percoco is at the center of that probe.
Some had suggested suspending the vote, until questions about the program can be sorted out.
"Let's put the pause and hold button," said Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb. "Whether it's a week or ten days to make sure that all the questions that were raised the other day in the briefing get answered."
But the state's top two legislative leaders agreed with Cuomo that the money should be approved despite the swirling questions.
"I believe that we can have between and amongst the Comptroller, the Attorney General, the executive, the Senate, the Assembly there are a lot of mechanisms for oversight which should take place," said Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan. "But I don't think that should be an excuse for not moving ahead."
"I think there is a general belief that it's a worthwhile project," said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. "There are a series of questions we put forward and we are just waiting to get those answers back."
So of there were any questions about temporarily suspending taxpayer commitment to the Buffalo Billion they were put to rest Wednesday with control board's vote.