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Will Albany penalize Tesla?

File photo: Chris Caya/WBFO News
Tesla's Gigafactory II was constructed with taxpayer dollars

Concerns over the deal Albany made to fund Tesla's Gigafactory on South Park Avenue, in Buffalo, were raised during a hearing in Amherst Monday. As WBFO's Chris Caya reports - the state could penalize the company millions of dollars for failing to meet an upcoming deadline.

In exchange for the state spending $750 million to build Tesla's factory, the company agreed to create 1460 jobs, in Buffalo, by April 2020. If the deadline is not met, the state could impose a $41.2 million penalty.

Credit Chris Caya/WBFO News
The Assembly Committee on Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce and Industry and the Assembly Committee on Small Business held a joint public hearing, at UB, Monday.

But will it follow through? That's the question Assemblyman Robin Schimminger posed to Empire State Development's Chief Operating Officer Kevin Younis during an Assembly hearing, at the University at Buffalo's Center for Tomorrow, Monday. Younis says, ESD staff recently visited the site and ESD is "excited about the team that's there."   
"They've expressed great optimism and confidence in meeting their job commitments. But having said that, if they fail to make those commitments we will impose those the penalties. We would much rather be talking about job creation than penalties but, but the answer is yes," Younis said. 

Credit Chris Caya/WBFO News
ESD Chief Operating Officer Kevin Younis assured assembly members that the agency will penalize Tesla if the company fails to meet its hiring goal in Buffalo.

The last figures released by Tesla showed the plant employed about 800 people. With the deadline five months away, Schimminger says, everyone is hoping for jobs - but he's "obligated to taxpayers" to ask about ESD's willingness to exercise the penalty.
"When the framers of both the state constitution and the national constitution put this all together they wanted to have a certain tension between an executive and a legislative. The legislative branch engaging in oversight. So it is not out of any ill will or sense of meanness that the legislature sometimes asks the tough questions it's the roll of the legislative branch," Schimminger said.  

A Tonawanda Democrat, Schimminger was first elected in 1976 and he recently announced that he will not seek reelection next year.  

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