New York State managed to draw significant national media attention this week when Amazon decided to cancel its plan to open a new HQ in Queens. AOC, who apparently now runs the Democratic Party, immediately declared victory, having ensured that a caravan of tens of thousands of new, well-paying jobs wouldn’t invade the area. But as difficult as it may be to believe, that wasn’t the worst economic news New Yorkers had to face.
The less reported story had to do with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to save the upstate region by investing in “green technology” companies, presumably also bringing in a flood of jobs. It was known as “the Buffalo Billion,” and it literally pushed one billion dollars of taxpayer money into this effort. Panasonic and Tesla were involved in the development project, but now one of the chief engineers who help craft this scheme has been forced to admit the awful truth. The Buffalo Billion is now the Buffalo Bust. (NY Post)
Amazon’s pullout Thursday wasn’t even the worst economic-development news for Gov. Cuomo this week: Just two days earlier, his economic-development czar basically admitted that the gov’s signature Buffalo Billion is a . . . Buffalo Bust.
In testimony Tuesday, Empire State Development boss Howard Zemsky tried to put a positive spin on it, but he acknowledged that Cuomo’s gamble of $750 million in taxpayer funds on a Buffalo solar-panel plant has bombed: On its current course, there’s zero sign it can host anything like the promised number of jobs.
The project “has got a better future than it has a past,” Zemsky lamely claimed, while admitting the state’s now looking at a Plan B: “I think we have to work with Panasonic and Tesla,” the firms running the plant, to diversify their product base. Maybe they should start making fairy dust?
Three-quarters of the Buffalo Billion ($750 million) went to the solar panel company, formerly known as Solar City before Tesla absorbed it. The rest of the billion hasn’t produced much either, but this investment was the centerpiece of the effort. After years of work, a grand total of 700 jobs were created and many of those may be disappearing if the company seriously tanks. So the taxpayers wound up paying more than a million dollars each for some engineering and manufacturing jobs that may not last out the year.
This wasn’t just a case of poor planning or bad luck, by the way. We’ve discussed the cloud of corruption which has surrounded the Buffalo Billion from the beginning. Multiple people have now gone to jail and others are awaiting trial because so much of the money was steered to politically well-connected allies of the Governor while providing little to nothing in return. The entire thing has long since begun to look more like an organized crime racket more than any sort of economic stimulus program.
A billion dollars may not sound like a lot in terms of our bloated federal balance sheet, but it can blow a serious hole in the state budget of New York. And that’s precisely what’s happened. Meanwhile, state revenue is dropping as higher earning residents flee the state and the Governor is left scrambling for excuses and explanations. Oh, well… I suppose he can just keep blaming it on Florida.