The governor’s plan to bring “Hollywood to Onondaga” is hardly the first, or even the most absurdly wasteful Andrew Cuomo initiative to develop upstate New York through subsidies and giveaways.
His administration has poured billions of dollars into the depressed region, reaping a harvest of indicted cronies and declining jobs figures.
Remember Start-Up New York? That was Governor Cuomo’s small-business tax-break scheme that he promised would “supercharge” job growth. After spending almost $50 million just to advertise and market the program in its first year, it turned out that Start-Up New York had created a grand total of 76 jobs.
After spending almost $50 million just to advertise and market the program in its first year, it turned out that Start-Up New York had created a grand total of 76 jobs.
The Syracuse film hub disaster was under the management of disgraced SUNY Polytechnic Institute President Alain Kaloyeros, whose trial for corruption is supposed to start later this month.
Kaloyeros, at one time the highest-compensated state employee, was arrested last year with long-time Cuomo pal and advisor Joe Percoco in a bid-rigging and bribery scheme. Cuomo’s signature Buffalo Billion plan to turn upstate into a national center of high-tech was in Kaloyeros’ portfolio; by some unexpected coincidence, most of the contracts were assigned to prominent Cuomo donors.
Empire State taxpayers were left holding the bag, and western New York is now home to numerous empty or underused industrial facilities.
New York State spent $750 million building a factory for SolarCity, a manufacturer of panels for the residential solar market, which is currently in decline; when federal tax-credits sunset in the next few years, the demand for household solar panels will continue to fall. Tesla bought SolarCity to save it from bankruptcy, but now it turns out that the company’s contract with the state offers an escape clause. Any change in government policy that could have a negative impact on its business gives Tesla the right to abandon its promise to stay in Buffalo and provide more than a thousand jobs to locals.
Meanwhile, SolarCity just agreed to pay $29.2 million to settle federal charges that the company committed fraud in 2012 when it was first applying for Obama-era solar subsidies.
To appease his political base, Governor Cuomo banned fracking across New York State. Instead of good jobs working in resource extraction, the governor gave New Yorkers seven new casinos, which provide low-paying work for a handful of card dealers and cocktail hostesses, while providing hard-up locals a place to gamble away the grocery and gas money. The latest reports show that the casinos aren’t providing the expected revenue, anyway.
Instead of pouring billions into crackpot development schemes fueled by government subsidies, Cuomo should tackle New York’s fundamental problems. A heavy tax burden, a regulatory structure that would make a Bolshevik blush, and an environmental review process that trips up even the most basic projects are all serious impediments to real economic growth. Let’s start by making New York a place where businesses want to be.
This piece originally appeared in the New York Post
Seth Barron is associate edtior of City Journal and project director of the Manhattan Institute’s NYC Initiative.