In early March the Development Accountability coalition was hitting a roadblock with Governor Spitzer. We were saying that IDAs (like COMIDA) should require businesses to pay decent wages if they are receiving tax breaks. Spitzer was opposing living wages and prevailing wages. Meanwhile, in an interesting twist of fate, it turns out he was paying several grand an hour for god knows what. That’s quite a prevailing wage!
Whatever you think of Spitzer, he won’t be opposing prevailing wages anymore.
The pressure is building around the state for IDA reform. For ten years Metro Justice has been pointing an spotlight on COMIDA, pointing out how the agency continues to hand out tax breaks to businesses that don’t hire local labor and don’t create jobs. And COMIDA does all this without consulting the towns and school districts that will have to forfeit the tax revenue.
Things have got to change and change is gonna come.
Why do we think that this will be the year? Two reasons. One is that some provisions of the law have expired. This means that dozens of development projects around the state will be stalled until the state legislature does something. The pressure to address the issue is rising.
The other reason to be optimistic is that the Republicans in the NYS Senate have reason to be nervous about losing the majority. With the stunning, unexpected victory of Democrat Darryl Aubertine in Oswego (the North Country district has 7 registered Republicans for every 3 Democrats), Joe Bruno’s Republican majority in the Senate has just been whittled down to one seat. Bruno has always been concerned about keeping Joe Robach, (R-Greece), in office. Robach is the only Republican Senator in New York in a district with a majority of registered Democrats.
Within two weeks of Aubertine’s victory Bruno had appointed Robach as chair of the Senate Labor Committee. Robach then published an op ed in favor of IDA reform (including prevailing wages). Local labor unions will want to hold Robach, the new Labor Committee chair, accountable. There will be considerable pressure on Robach to deliver an IDA reform package that includes wage standards.
As we go to press we don’t yet know where Governor Patterson is on IDA reform and the prevailing wage issue but we do know that he was the sponsor of the Clean Elections bill while he was Senate Minority leader. We think this could be the year that the state legislature takes the first step toward taking big money out of politics. This is not an incremental reform. It literally transforms the system, changing the balance of power between big money and the grassroots. Metro Justice’s full page ad in the Democrat in Chronicle created a lot of buzz and generated a lot of emails to Assemblymembers. Our phone banks are also giving constituents a chance to give feedback to elected officials. Please help Metro Justice with the phone calling and get on the bus when we head to Albany for Reform Day on April 29th.