Good-Government Groups Renew Call For Contracting Reform In 2019

Jan 8, 2019

With the legislature returning to Albany tomorrow, good-government groups are promoting legislation they say would fight corruption in state contracting.

The watchdogs say despite the conviction of top aides and campaign contributors to Governor Andrew Cuomo for rigging more than $1 billion in state economic contracts, the legislature has failed to enact substantial "Clean Contracting" reforms.

Alex Camarda is the senior policy advisor for Reinvent Albany:   "For the last two years we've advocated for legislation that would enable the comptroller to receive contracts before they're executed and for the creation of a database that would show for each company receiving state subsidies how much they're receiving under what programs and whether they're producing the required jobs in exchange for the state's investment."

Watchdogs say in May, a bipartisan majority of the state Senate passed the Comptroller’s Procurement Integrity Act to review contracts before they are executed for state-affiliated nonprofits along with a "Database of Deals," listing all business subsidies received by companies.  The bills stalled in the Assembly.

With the legislature back in town, 113th district Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, a Democrat, wants transparency fast-tracked.    "I think that it's important for us restore the public trust in how the government is spending its money especially around economic development initiatives and that requires a higher level of transparency and accountability than we have had in place up to this point. I will continue to be a co-sponsor on that bill. I will push in the Assembly for us to take that up."

Camarda says it’s important both measures are revived.   "Examples that are spotlighted in the media like the Amazon deal in New York City where they're receiving $3 billion dollars to produce 40,000 jobs, but we have no idea really for a particular company, how much in benefits they're receiving across many different deals and contracts across the state, and so that database would provide that level of transparency. And the need for the comptroller's review we saw last year with the conviction of high-ranking officials in the Cuomo administration  and campaign contributors to the governor, because we saw that contracts were rigged for some big upstate development projects."

Camarda adds the governor once promised contracting reform, and is hopeful it’ll pass this year.