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By James T. Madore

May 10, 2011

Nearly 80 union officials, liberals and community activists demanded Tuesday that state leaders hold businesses more accountable for the jobs they promise to create in return for tax breaks and other incentives.

"We call on you to roll up your sleeves and take on the hard task that has eluded previous governors and legislatures: transforming the state's often wasteful and ineffective economic development system into a refocused job-creation program," activists said in an open letter to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and leaders of the legislature's majority conferences.

Politicians, the letter said, should stipulate that companies receiving state aid pay "family-sustaining wages for local residents" and that regions not poach employers from one another. Empire State Development Corp. and other agencies must be able to "recapture" tax incentives from businesses that don't keep job and investment pledges, the activists stated.

The letter also called for more details about development deals to be publicly disclosed. It alleged "corporate subsidy programs" cost state and local governments more than $8.2 billion in tax revenue last year.

Some of the proposals in the letter mirror planks in Cuomo's 2010 gubernatorial campaign platform. He called for establishing 10 regional councils to devise development plans for their respective regions and to compete for a portion of the $1 billion in tax breaks and grants given to companies each year by the state.

The councils, which will be supervised by Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, were included in the $132.5-billion state budget approved on March 31.

However, some activists said Tuesday they were frustrated by the Cuomo administration's reticence to disclose the councils' composition, procedures and other specifics.

"It's been four months since the inauguration, and we need good jobs," said Kristi Barnes of the Alliance for a Greater New York. "We really expected to hear more details by this time about how the regional councils would function."...

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