ALBANY – New York’s nearly 600 state and local agencies, often referred to as “shadow governments,” spend more than $ 60 billion each year and hold approximately $ 243 billion in national debt.
These include the state-owned Thruway Authority, numerous local industrial development agencies and the New York Power Authority, whose portfolio includes the Niagara Power Project in Lewiston and the Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Power Station in Schoharie County.
Now the state government watchdogs are calling on Governor Kathy Hochul’s government to improve monitoring of agency performance by allowing a little-known state regulator to recruit more staff.
The budget office of the authorities was created in 2010 with the aim of providing it with 30 full-time employees to carry out its tasks.
But 11 years later it only has a dozen full-time employees, which prevents it from being effective, proponents said.
“With such a large scope of work, the ABO, with its currently 12 full-time employees and the low budget for technology and data systems, cannot perform its tasks sensibly,” said the proponents.
The letter’s signatories include representatives from the Citizens Budget Commission, League of Women Voters of New York State, New York Public Interest Research Group, Common Cause / New York, Reinvent Albany, the worker-backed Stronger Economy for All Coalition and Citizens Union.
The Authorities Budget Office now receives $ 2 million annually from the state. With an additional $ 3 million, it would have the “minimal resources it needs to fulfill its legal obligations,” said the watchdogs.
The office is funded through a small evaluation from the authorities, so any adjustments to its budget would have no impact on the state’s general fund, proponents said.
With its “current skeleton crew,” the office is unable to “conduct more than a handful of investigations and reviews,” they added.
John Kaehny, director of Reinvent Albany, said he was optimistic that the Hochul government would be convinced there were good arguments in favor of providing the authorities’ budget department with the resources and staff it had foreseen when it was founded.
He noted that Jeffrey Pearlman, who previously ran the office, is now one of the top three attorneys in Hochul’s administration.
Several local industrial development agencies have been involved in corruption scandals, and more effective oversight could prevent fraud and waste and ensure compliance with procurement guidelines, Kaehny said.
“These places are outside of the government you are voting for, and they make all of these decisions about borrowing, tax breaks and big subsidies without going through your state assembly, city council or mayor,” Kaehny said.
The Hochul government, contacted on Monday, confirmed that the governor’s staff are investigating the group’s concerns.
“Governor Hochul has already taken important steps to improve transparency and oversight in her administration and we will look into this during the budget process,” said Hazel Crampton-Hays, a Hochul spokeswoman.
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