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State keeps public in the dark again

State keeps public in the dark again

Report on SolarCity project in Buffalo was supposed to be released, but wasn't. Sound familiar?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office needs to learn to rip off the Band-Aid and get it over with.

For the second time this month, the administration is keeping the lid on an economic development report that affects all New Yorkers, is costing taxpayers tons of money, and likely promises bad news.

The latest report that was due to be delivered, but which is still on the shelf, involves a promised monthly update on the construction progress and job creation figures for the SolarCity project, which is part of the Buffalo Billion economic development project.

This is the same project that's being investigated by the U.S. Attorney's office over its awarding of contracts and other potential malfeasance.

The governor and legislative leaders who run the state's Public Authorities Control Board agreed in May to provide $485 million in state money to help finish the project. In exchange for authorizing the funding, lawmakers had asked to receive monthly updates on how that money was being spent.

The Cuomo administration was supposed to provide its monthly report to the board on Wednesday. But not only was the report not released, no timetable was provided for its release.

An attorney for Empire State Development, the state's economic development arm, said it would be released to the board chairman "in short order," but he didn't give a timetable, nor did he confirm that the document would even be released to the public at a public meeting.

This isn't the first time the state has tried to keep bad news from citizens. It's not even the first time this month.

The state had a March 31 deadline to provide taxpayers with an update on the progress of the Start-Up NY program, another Cuomo economic development initiative, which provides substantial tax breaks for companies that locate or expand in conjunction with state college campuses.

When the report was surreptitiously released more than 90 days late on the eve of the long July 4 holiday weekend, it was revealed that the program had only created 332 jobs last year (408 total in the past two years), while sucking up $55 million in taxpayer money in 2015 for marketing and promotion.

When, we wonder, is the governor's office going to try to sneak the Solar City report by us? The next official three-day weekend isn't until Labor Day.

If citizens and legislative leaders continue to be left in the dark about the progress of economic development initiatives being funded at taxpayer expense, then how can they know whether the investment is worthwhile and whether it should be continued?

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb summed up the point of demanding a full and immediate accounting this way: "This is a billion dollar investment by taxpayers. ... The public deserves to know the facts right now."

Well, governor. How about it?

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