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Dispatch: IDA Reform Protest

AV’s roving reporter Ellen Przepasniak sent in this dispatch from yesterday afternoon’s IDA reform protest, organized by the Coalition for Economic Justice:

While protestors in period costume held a tea party outside City Hall on Wednesday to protect unfair taxation, the Coalition for Economic Justice held a smaller, calmer rally a few blocks away at the Ellicott Street Post Office to remind taxpayers about IDA reform.

img_1340Roughly 30 demonstrators turned out Wednesday afternoon. The idea was to catch people filing their taxes at the last minute because they couldn’t afford to pay their tax bill. Allison Duwe, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Justice, wanted to send the message that industrial development agencies, which give tax breaks to companies for economic development work, are currently operating under an unfair system that continues to reward big corporations.

The way Duwe sees it, the current tax system is fundamentally wrong. She wants to hold businesses to more accountability of how they spend taxpayer dollars to make sure the rich aren’t getting richer. “Taxes should be levied fairly and spent wisely,” she says. “We really need to change the way we do business.”

The six IDAs in Erie County don’t have a great track record of investing wisely on development and turning a profit on projects. Duwe says too often, money is given to out-of-state contractors that support low-wage workers. She wants reform that creates solid, family-supporting jobs for local workers so that money can stay in our area to stimulate our local economy. “Now more than ever, Western New Yorkers need accountable businesses that are committed to creating quality jobs for local residents,” Duwe says. “We can’t afford to spend tax dollars on empty office parks and low-wage jobs.”

Senator Antoine Thompson and Assembly Member Sam Hoyt have both recently introduced IDA reform legislation. Duwe believes it will help to increase job standards, transparency and accountability so that taxpayers can be sure their money is being spent prudently.

Local developer Carl Paladino recently filmed a “My 3 Minutes” for Artvoice TV decrying Hoyt’s bill, which would mandate prevailing wage requirements on IDA projects. Paladino claims that the bill doesn’t make fiscal sense for Western New York developers.

At the rally, Duwe closed with a limerick she wrote:

There was a big bank looking to expand
So it went to the taxpayer and stuck out its hand
It said, give a big perk
And we’ll create lots of work
A few million in tax breaks is all we demand

Put up your dukes, Carl Paladino! There’s a challenge on the table.