Niagara Gazette

Columns

June 6, 2013

GLYNN: Cuomo's tax-free plan also has a downside

Niagara Gazette — At first glance, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “Tax-Free NY” plan looked like a sure way to shape an ideal environment for a start-up business. After all, 10 years of tax-free operations sounds as enticing as anything an industrial development agency could offer.

 Unlike the highly touted economic development zones in many other states, Cuomo’s plan is the real McCoy. Or is it? Basically it would make available to start-up companies 120 million square feet of space at State University of New York sites and community colleges, and an additional 200,000 square feet adjoining each campus. Another three million square feet would be available at private colleges across the state.

In a weekend reporters roundtable on the PBS “New York Now” (WNED-TV, Buffalo), Kyle Hughes @ nysnysnews, a veteran Capitol Hill reporter, was concerned that the new tax-free zone could create a kind of second-class citizenship.

There is a valid fear, as Hughes explained, that the new tax-free sites — no sales, property or business taxes would be imposed — might even drive out businesses now operating outside those zones. The reason: They will still be paying taxes and won’t have the same advantage as those inside the zones. To compound matters, owners and employees of those businesses in the zone also will be exempt even from income taxes. Some people see that as fundamentally unfair, Hughes added. 

Another issue widely discussed in Albany these days is the future of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, who has been sharply criticized for the way he handled sexual harassment complaints against disgraced Assemblyman Vito J. Lopez, D-Brooklyn.

Many observers in state government, however, are quick to point out that Silver is too powerful, with firm control over committee appointments (extra cash for chairmen); lulus (an allowance in lieu of payment for itemized expenses); pork barrel (political patronage); additional funds for staffing; and the amount of money a lawmaker gets for a district office.) Who’s going to throw a leader like that under the bus?

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