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SARATOGA SPRINGS: Council endorses IDA reform

The Saratoga Springs City Council joined some labor officials and state lawmakers in calling for reform of the state's industrial development agencies (IDA).

IDAs have the potential to be real economic engines, said Kevin Connolly, vice president of the Saratoga County Labor Council. "However, in many municipalities they are dysfunctional at best and counterproductive at worst."

He cited an audit performed by the state comptroller's office that showed IDAs actually created only 36 percent of the jobs they said they would.

"Industrial development agencies are an important economic development tool to promote job creation and retention in our communities and are the main source of economic development subsidies at the local and county level," read Mayor Valerie Keehn at the Tuesday, May 15, meeting of the Saratoga Springs City Council.

The proclamation continued: "When industrial development agencies do not use taxpayer dollars effectively they fail to provide a good return on public investment; and whereas it is necessary to ensure that businesses receiving financial assistance through industrial development agencies provide quality jobs and services to local communities as these communities are sacrificing needed tax revenue; be it resolved that we, the members of the Saratoga Springs City Council support state reform of industrial development agencies that mandates basic wage and benefits, community, and environmental standards for companies receiving financial assistance from Industrial Development Agencies."

The proclamation was passed unanimously.

The endorsement came days before a scheduled public hearing on the state's IDAs, calling for reforms that would make the agencies more accountable for the incentives they approve and ensure IDA-backed projects generate the jobs they are designed to.

Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, D-Buffalo, hosted the hearing, along with other state lawmakers, as he prepares to introduce an IDA reform bill before the legislative session ends. Portions of the current state law covering IDAs are set to expire at the end of June. According to Keehn, a portion of the General Municipal Law governing the operations of industrial development agencies are scheduled to sunset this year; and the expiration of those provisions provides an opportunity to strengthen the standards, accountability and transparency of industrial development agencies to taxpayers, local governments and school districts.

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