Norris: Sunlight Needed To Protect Taxpayer Investment In Job Creation

A Legislative Column from Assemblyman Mike Norris (R,I-Lockport)

Here in Western New York, our local businesses and officials have worked very hard to revitalize our regional economy. Growing up, it was too common place to hear about businesses closing. The people I know were impacted by the loss of jobs, and I saw firsthand the impact this had on families and our communities. I am so proud of the local efforts made to rebound and rebuild our local economy from Main Street on up, and as a lifelong Western New Yorker it is satisfying to see those efforts recognized by the state with billions of taxpayer funded investments being made.

However it is critically important for all to remember that this money is taxpayers’ hard-earned money. The governor and his economic development team who appropriate these funds are only stewards of money that must be invested in the public’s best interest. The public deserves to know who, how, when, where and why their money is being spent.

That’s why I introduced legislation known as the State Contracts Sunlight Act (A.5857), to increase the transparency for how the public’s money is being invested and to protect that investment.

The State Contracts Sunlight Act allows the state comptroller to establish a public, searchable statewide database of all contract bids and final contracts. Specific requirements of each bid or contract includes job creation and investment, project timeline, funding sources, return on investment to the state, and claw back provisions for when projects do not meet deadlines or fulfill requirements. Furthermore, the bill calls for an open public comment period prior to the approval of a contract by the comptroller or attorney general. Not only would this bill provide greater public disclosure and greater accountability against bid rigging or conflicts of interest, but it would also help businesses become more competitive in applying for grants or economic development funding.

Transparency, accountability, public review and oversight of all state contracts and projects is necessary to safeguard our tax dollars and prevent conflicts of interest and mismanagement by the state. Further, I also believe that this principle should apply to contracts for all expenditures – whether it’s large projects such as the Buffalo Billion or smaller ones like buying equipment.

As your voice in Albany, protecting taxpayers’ money is of utmost importance to me. While we want to do everything we can to further promote our region’s economic development, we must also make sure the public’s investment is resulting in actual jobs with performance goals met and periodic reviews to ensure compliance. The goal here is to ensure that promises are delivered on and that the residents of the 144th Assembly District – and throughout our state – have better career options, a better quality of life, open and transparent government, and reason to stay here in New York State for years to come.