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Former Syracuse mayor calls for end of state economic development programs

ALBANY – One gubernatorial candidate has a clear vision about what should be done with New York State’s assortment of economic development programs: end them all.

Stephanie Miner, a registered Democrat and the former Syracuse mayor running for governor as an independent this fall, says the state should cease operating a host of economic development efforts because, she says, they waste taxpayers dollars and fail to live up to the hype.

In a Miner administration, among the entities and programs to be erased:

* Empire State Development, the state’s lead economic development agency.

* Tax breaks awarded to TV and film companies, a program that costs taxpayers nearly $500 million annually.

* Ten regional councils that help Gov. Andrew Cuomo direct how $750 million in state spending should be spent each year in a program dubbed “The Hunger Games” by critics.

* Financial incentives to wealthy pro sports teams to construct or renovate stadiums.

“We eliminate what is not working,’’ Miner said in an interview.

Analysis: Ex-Syracuse mayor challenges Cuomo, citing Buffalo Billion trial

Instead, Miner said, the billions of dollars directed to economic development projects for which both Democrats and Republicans take credit should be earmarked for a massive and well-defined infrastructure improvement effort for public transit systems, water and sewer projects, decaying bridges and pothole-strewn roads.

Miner, running on the newly formed Serve America Movement line in the general election, said New York needs to embrace a system “allowing the free market to determine how to create jobs.’’

“Government should not be in a position of picking winners and losers,’’ she said of the programs. She highlighted such efforts as the Buffalo Billion, which she said has failed to live up to early job prediction estimates and was the subject of a recent bid-rigging corruption trial that ended up with the conviction of longtime Buffalo businessman Louis Ciminelli and others.

Infrastructure work is crucial, Miner said, pointing to various problems with roads in New York and worsening problems with the New York City subway system. “The way New York State became the Empire State was by building infrastructure,’’ said Miner, who was once Cuomo’s handpicked state Democratic Party co-chair until she penned a New York Times op-ed in 2013 criticizing his efforts to help Syracuse and other upstate cities.

Pointing to New York City subways and potholes plaguing many roadways, Miner criticized Cuomo’s commitment to bread-and-butter infrastructure work in the state.

For his part, Cuomo has focused heavily on what he says has been record investments in infrastructure projects, including a new bridge to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge downstate and airport renovations. On Tuesday, Cuomo attended a ribbon-cutting event at LaGuardia Airport in Queens for a new ramp to ease traffic problems there.

Cuomo said New York State has stepped up infrastructure investments at a time when the federal government has retreated. “Thank you for investing in Queens, this great city and this great state,’’ outgoing U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley told Cuomo at the Queens airport event.

But Miner says Cuomo still has not released a financial plan about the final costs of the Tappan Zee project or how a new pledge from Cuomo in May to invest $125 billion in infrastructure projects over the next five years will funded or allocated.

Empire State Development, the agency Miner proposes to eliminate, oversees the massive bonding programs each year by entities like the New York State Urban Development Corp. Asked how bond programs would work if ESD is ended, Miner said it would be done “in a way that the legal obligations would be placed into the appropriate state agency.’’ She said a full plan on her economic development ideas will be released in September.

The Miner campaign pointed to news articles – which cited various private and public reports – about less-than-rosy conditions in New York State, including 1 million people moving from the state since 2010 and upstate job growth that lags significantly behind the nation and downstate.

“It is no secret to anybody who is intellectually honest that the fate of upstate is dire, and that the economic development strategies that have been put in place are abject failures,’’ Miner said.

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