By Brandon Muir
Albany’s culture of corruption stinks. Pay-to-play economic development policies have cost billions of dollars and generated few jobs. Albany insiders have used loopholes they created to enrich themselves, their friends and family.
The whole mess has landed notable lobbyists, top administration officials and prominent local developers in court facing charges of bid-rigging and corruption. Through it all, taxpayers have been left footing the bill for speculative giveaways and rigged contracts.
After repeatedly ignoring the exploitation, the Legislature has arrived at a fork in the road. Will they choose the avenue of reform, or continue down a path of inaction? This divergence can most clearly be seen with the Procurement Integrity Act.
Proposed by Democratic Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and sponsored by Republican Sen. John DeFrancisco, it passed the Senate 60 to 2 with overwhelming bipartisan support. In the Assembly, it is also supported by more than 40 members across party lines. The bill is also endorsed by editorial boards statewide, including The Buffalo News, as well as numerous state-based good government groups.
The Procurement Integrity Act would create common-sense reforms to restore independent oversight (removed six years ago) of State University of New York, City University of New York and the New York State Office of General Services contracts to the comptroller. It would also expand comptroller oversight to include SUNY Research Foundation awards that exceed $1 million. The bill also prohibits state contracting through affiliated nonprofits – as was used in SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s corruption scandal.
But politics-as-usual in Albany is preventing this common-sense bill from becoming law.
Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, the sponsor of the legislation, is the chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations, where the bill is stalled. Despite being the sponsor, Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo, has said she “no longer supports the bill.” That’s right – the Procurement Integrity Act is not advancing in the Assembly because its own sponsor opposes it.
It’s time to end this cycle of corruption. New Yorkers deserve a government that spends tax dollars responsibly and transparently. The Procurement Integrity Act re-establishes these principles and places them in the hands of a duly elected representative of the people.
Peoples-Stokes has the power to advance or kill this important good government reform. If lawmakers genuinely care about cracking down on Albany corruption, they must demand this bill be put forward for a vote.
Brandon Muir is executive director of Reclaim NY Initiative, a 501(c)4 organization that works to empower all New Yorkers through education and civic engagement.