At the risk of seeming ungrateful for the attention Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has directed toward Western New York over the past two years, it must be said that the money is flowing like molasses.
A panel that should have been set up a year ago is still not in place and, as a result, more than $20 million in economic development funds remains out of reach for the region.
Meanwhile, another program, with $25 million, is also being held up, possibly due to vagueness within the legislation.
The $20 million headache that business leaders and lawmakers are both complaining about stems from an important program that will cash in unused power allocations from the Niagara Power Project in Lewiston. Not all of the low-cost power designated for use within 30 miles of the plant is used here every year, so the new program calls for turning the money earned by selling that power into grants for job creation in the area instead of diverting those proceeds into the budget of the New York State Power Authority.
The program, enacted last March, required the establishment of a five-member board to distribute the money. The Assembly and the Senate each gets an appointment, and the governor gets three. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, named the Assembly’s choice last year, and Senate co-leader Dean G. Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, has submitted that chamber’s nominee. But, after 10 months, Cuomo has yet to name his three selections, stalling any action.
The good news is that the money is there, accumulating in an escrow account. Cuomo was instrumental in this measure and we know he understands its importance to Western New York. The sooner he names his appointees to the board, the sooner it can begin achieving its crucial purpose.
The $25 million headache, meanwhile, relates to a tax break program targeting manufacturers in high-unemployment areas. That tax incentive was approved more than a year ago, but it took the Cuomo administration until Tuesday to issue rules on which companies will be eligible for the tax breaks. At least that hurdle has now been cleared, but, again, the delay was unfortunate, especially given the need here and Cuomo’s clear interest in helping Western New York repair its tattered economy.
We know that governments sometimes move slowly, especially at the state and national levels, where bureaucracy upon bureaucracy can be a dead weight on progress. And we know that bureaucracies are unavoidable in government and often serve important purposes.
But it shouldn’t take this long to name three people to a panel or to decide who qualifies for a tax break. We appreciate Albany’s attention and whenever the proceeds from these programs are available, we will gladly accept them. It just could have gone a little more smoothly.