Legislators Look to Rein In Cuomo's Economic Development Power

Six years into Governor Andrew Cuomo's tenure, state lawmakers increasingly are pushing measures designed to curb his power over economic development spending and the state budget.

"This is not a dictatorship," said Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb (R). "One man should not determine how much money is being spent on economic development in the entire state."

The measures being pushed include greater oversight of economic development contracts in the wake of a corruption scandal that drew in a former close aide to Cuomo, and re-empowering the comptroller's office in the process. It's unclear if the measures can be agreed to.

"I don't know what we'll do, but it's certainly something we are thinking about before the end of session," said Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle (D).

And they want to rein in Cuomo's power to insert policy into the budget that does not have any fiscal implications through a constitutional amendment.

"There seems to be a growing trend over the last several years of inserting these major agenda items into the budget," said Senator Chris Jacobs, R-Buffalo.

The push back to Cuomo's use of his power comes as the governor has used every lever of his office to advance his agenda, sometimes bypassing the Legislature in the process.

"He's really the first governor to be exercising the constitutional powers he has in the budget process," said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

At the same time, the Legislature in the last several years has shifted, following the ousters of longtime leaders like Sheldon Silver in the Assembly and Dean Skelos in the Senate.

"They now have new leaders in both houses, and they don't exert the same power over their conferences over their predecessors," Horner said. "Put those things together, and this governor has tremendous power over the process."

The measures scaling back Cuomo's power face an uncertain outcome in both houses as the legislative session enters its final two weeks.

“Every dollar for these projects is approved through the budget process and has to go through the Public Authorities Control Board -- a member of which Kolb appoints," said Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi. "Either he’s looking for a cheap press hit, or he doesn’t know the powers of his own job -- it’s embarrassing either way."

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