No, we’re not talking about the Bills stadium.

In 2012, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the “Buffalo Billion,” a plan to invest a billion dollars of economic development funding in the Buffalo region to “make fundamental changes to the regional economy and create a more prosperous and sustainable future.”

In 2017, the state added another $500 million to the program.

In 2018, The New York Times described the results to that point as “a mix of street-level successes, expensive brick-and-mortar gambles and ill-conceived misfires.”

A month after that article, the corruption convictions started. Eventually, a former state university president, a top Cuomo aide and major Western New York real estate developers all ended up convicted of charges related to a major bid-rigging investigation.

In 2020, an audit by the State Comptroller’s office found that despite a supposed state target of $30 in benefits for every dollar in economic development funding, the primary Buffalo Billion project had only returned 54 cents in value to taxpayers for every dollar of the $959 million it received.

As for all those jobs? According to the State Comptroller’s report, advanced manufacturing and life sciences employment in the region declined between 2011 and 2017, right when the Buffalo Billion was supposed to be creating those exact kinds of jobs in the region.

And yes, if you’re wondering how in the space of just ten years New York’s governors went from “a billion dollars is a huge amount of money, enough to reinvent a region’s entire economy” to “we negotiated the Bills down to just a billion dollars, that should probably be enough for a new stadium,” well, so are we.

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