In a mocking skit presented Friday on Main Street in Buffalo, an economic advocacy group denounced tax giveaways by industrial development agencies, called for immediate reform of the agencies and demanded higher-paying jobs when public money is doled out.
The Coalition for Economic Justice, affiliated with New York Jobs With Justice, criticized the state's 115 such agencies — including Erie County's and those of five towns in Western New York — for giving businesses more breaks but getting fewer new jobs in return.
That wastes taxpayer dollars, the activists say, citing a state comptroller's report based on 2008 data that found net tax exemptions grew 9 percent from 2007, to $645 million, while new jobs fell 14 percent.
"In a time of great economic uncertainty for many individuals and families across [New York State], including here in Buffalo, [industrial development agencies] are spending more of our taxpayer dollars and doing less for our communities," said Terrence Robinson, an activist with the group. "We can no longer afford to give away the candy store."
Outside 237 Main St., about 15 activists praised the Assembly for "consistently" backing reforms and called on the State Senate to act.
"The time is now for the [New York State] Senate to work with the Assembly to craft a bill," said Andy Reynolds, an organizer with the advocacy group. "We want to make it clear to both of Western New York's state senators that it's time to act on this and pass . . reform so we can start creating quality jobs for New York State workers."
Reynolds said the group wants
development agencies to demand companies create sustainable, "living-wage jobs that pay people enough" to cover their needs. "Public dollars should not be used to create poverty jobs," he said. "It doesn't make good economic sense, and it's not moral."
The activists also parodied an agency board meeting. In the skit, Reynolds played the board president of the "Everyone's Cash" Industrial Development Agency, doing "whatever we want with the public's money" and offering $1 million per job to a company CEO, played by activist Jim Anderson, who eagerly took the money without promising a single job.
Rachel Wilson, an activist who works for the Western New York Area Labor Federation, even wore a cardboard box painted to look like an automatic teller machine, with "insufficient funds" on the screen and "I am not your ATM" written on the side.