State Spending Outside Budget Is Recipe For Corruption

New York officials love to pay for programs without adding it to the state budget.

Sometimes, it’s by using state agencies and authorities to carry out state programs. This is the way the Buffalo Billion was paid for — an avenue that invites fraud, waste and corruption because the spending happens outside of the normal system of government without the typical auditing and accountability that come with use of government money.

Other times, worthwhile programs are started using one-time revenues. This was the case with the Chautauqua County Land Bank Corp., which was started after the county was one of five original land banks in the state. The county land bank has received $2,806,000 from the state. That money didn’t come from the state budget but rather is part of the more than $30 million the state Attorney General’s office has secured through settlements with the nation’s largest banks over misconduct that contributed to the 2008-09 housing crisis. Herein lies the problem with this “off-the-books” funding source — what happens when the housing settlement money begins to dry up?

That is the question Chautauqua County Land Bank officials find themselves wrestling with now. There is no dedicated state budget funding and uncertainty of a fourth round of funding from the state Attorney General’s office, particularly since there is a new attorney general serving the rest of this year pending November’s election results.

“It sounds like we need to work on a plan B,” said Hugh Butler, land bank board member, said during a recent meeting.

Now that the state has created and expanded the land bank program, it can’t let down the program and the communities the land bank program serves. In January, the governor and state Legislature must clear up the land bank funding questions.