By Frank Parlato
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is in a battle with federal highway officials over state-funded “I Love New York” billboards scattered along highways in New York State.
The signs are meant to inform motorists about a state-funded phone app which guides people toward state selected tourist attractions and businesses.
Federal officials say the signs pose a threat to motorists with poor self- preservation instincts who might download the app while driving.
Initially New York State officials told the public that the signs cost taxpayers $1.9 million. The controversy with the feds however stirred inquiries by the media and subsequently the state admitted the cost for the signs was $8.1 million. In this instance the state was 400 percent off in the numbers they initially told the public.
However, statistics, cited from reports state officials authored, based on criteria they established, prove taxpayer funded signs, as well as taxpayer funded advertising, increase tourism in New York State, which is, incidentally, the highest taxed state out of 50 competitors.
State officials say, since the advent of the Cuomo administration, taxpayer-funded tourism advertising has had unparalleled success. State officials say tourism generated $102 billion for the state in 2014 alone, based on numbers from reports state officials authored.
In another equally reliable estimate, state officials say that taxpayer-funded tourism advertising is responsible for bringing 234 million visitors to the state in 2015.
This is an astonishing number – since thanks to Cuomo’s estimates, the number of people who came to New York is equal to more than two thirds of the US population.
“If you look at the return on our investment, it has been extraordinary,” Cuomo said of his advertising program. “One of the great economic engines for upstate New York is tourism.”
Much of the taxpayer money spent on attracting tourists to come to New York State is spent on advertising that appears only within the state.
These advertising campaigns are coupled with media releases that credit Gov. Cuomo as the leader of the initiative to promote tourism in New York.
(and believe me, it didn’t hurt Cuomo a bit to spread all that money around to media outlets within the state where it could do him some good. [It’s hard not to like a Governor who spends a million dollars in advertising with your media outlet.])
When he ran for reelection, Gov. Cuomo directed $230 million in taxpayer money for radio and TV commercials depicting New York State as a destination for tourists and business. While some ads appeared in other states, many ads aired within the state and cheered voters with the glad tidings of how New York State was experiencing sudden, remarkable, unprecedented, remarkable growth and improvement.
This was very helpful to residents since they had to soon make a decision at the polls as to whom to vote for governor – the man who brought them this success- Gov. Cuomo or some dangerous interloper who might New York a stagnating, population shrinking, high taxed, business unfriendly, bureaucratic nightmare.
Empire State Development, the state’s economic-development agency, whose officers are appointed by the governor and serve at his pleasure, gave Gov. Cuomo full credit for the success of the tourism advertising program and for increased tourism, and for every good thing that has happened to New York State, explaining that Governor Cuomo “revitalized the state’s …tourism efforts.”
Pulling figures from out of their reports, authored by state officials he appointed, Cuomo stated that the “I Love NY” program, which costs state taxpayers a mere $50 million a year, coupled with another $50 million in TV and radio ads promoting New York State’s overall success in everything, brought in an additional, astonishing $8 billion in revenue for the state in 2014.
“Now, if we can get a return on investment where $100 million increases revenue [by] $8 billion, I would do that every day,” Cuomo said in a video promoting himself paid for by taxpayers during a state funded Tourism Summit near Albany which credited Cuomo for what he has done.
The governor’s revelation that the state achieved an 8000 percent return on taxpayers’ investment may be the best use of taxpayers’ money as stimulus in US history.
The only return on investment known to exceed it are rate of returns donors to Cuomo’s campaigns get in state subsidies, according to comparisons of Empire State Development and New York State Board of Elections records.
Cuomo is expected to run for reelection next year.
State officials, whose service to the state would cease should a Republican governor win office, are expected to produce ads to educate the public that if Cuomo is not reelected, the 234 million tourists (which by the way is two thirds of the population of the entire USA) who Cuomo officials now say come to the state each year, and spend $8 billion, may drop dramatically.
If, during the 2018 campaign season, as some $230 million in taxpayer funded TV and radio ads promoting gains the state has made in recent years start to appear, state officials may be able to do additional research that will show that more than a billion tourists will come to New York, spending $8 trillion, in 2017 alone.