How Was $7 Billion Spent?

Recently, the Alliance for a Greater New York (ALIGN) – a labor backed think-tank – released a report analyzing the approximately $7 billion in economic development incentives distributed in New York State in 2011. The group rightly called for increased transparency and performance accountability, meaning the public has a right to know if the businesses receiving state and local benefits are living up to their commitments and, if not, are our government entities stepping in to foreclose on our collective investment.

Refreshingly, the report took the state to task on climate change, citing a lack of meaningful metrics designed to direct economic development funds toward verifiable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and / or smart growth strategies. While I agree that the state could be doing much more to roll back climate-pollution, developments in recent years may well have out-paced the data the report’s authors relied on.

Under Governor Cuomo, New York’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) has provided a much needed boost to the state’s clean energy goals. Green Jobs – Green New York and its related energy efficiency and workforce development programs have been driving an increase in carbon reduction projects in every corner of the state. The Cuomo administration’s Cleaner, Greener Communities Program has led to the unprecedented development of regional smart growth and sustainable development plans. This summer, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority will seek to build on those plans by utilizing RGGI dollars to fund many of the clean energy projects prioritized by the Governor’s Regional Economic Development Councils.

ALIGN’s focus on climate change is certainly welcome and, hopefully, it will encourage the state to ramp-up its pursuit of effective investments in the fight against climate pollution. However, it would be unfair not to acknowledge the progress we have made by living up to our commitment to invest RGGI carbon auction revenues in efficiency, clean power and technology innovation.