News Column

Cuomo Wants SUNY Tax-free Zones

May 23, 2013

New York state would provide a tax-free environment on and around State University campuses under an initiative announced Wednesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The Tax-Free NY program would create zones on all SUNY campuses outside New York City and at designated private campuses north of Westchester, according to a press release from the governor's office. As much as 200,000 square feet around each of those campuses also would be eligible for inclusion in the zones.

"Under Tax-Free NY, communities across upstate will become a magnet for new businesses, new start-ups, new venture capital and new jobs, taking our economic development and job creating efforts to a level never seen before," Cuomo said.

Eligible businesses operating in the zones would be exempt from sales, property and business taxes, and their employees would be exempt from the state income tax under the plan, which must be approved by the legislature.

"This has been under discussion since the budget passed," said state Sen. James Seward, R-Milford. "There's no doubt we need a bold, innovative approach to revive and advance our economy, particularly in the upstate area."

Seward said he agreed with the plan's goal of "creating a more business-friendly environment for campus communities like Oneonta, Cobleskill (and) Delhi," but he cautioned that much work remained.

"A lot of details have to be worked out, but conceptually, I think the plan has a number of very positive attributes that will help attract new employers, create new jobs and boost our overall economy," he said.

Among the details to be settled -- probably by the end of the legislative session in early June -- would be the kinds of businesses to which the tax exemptions would be extended, he said.

"We're already saying retail would not be included here," he said, adding that he doubted housing, such as the Blodgett development in Oneonta, would be granted an exemption.

"I'm not looking to erode the local tax base," he said.

He also said the exemptions would be "limited to brand-new jobs that currently don't exist," meaning that companies could not move existing jobs to the zones to take advantage of their tax-free status.

Oneonta Mayor Dick Miller said that all he knew about the proposal was what was contained in the governor's press release.

"I doubt that it is going to have a major impact on college communities like Oneonta," he said.

"If you're an Albany or a Troy, with RPI (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), or Rochester or Cornell, where there's a lot of basic science being done, this probably will spur some economic activity around their campuses," he said. "I doubt that kind of activity will happen, in a discernible measure, here."

"The institutions here are not that kind of institution," he added. "There might be an isolated case, but I don't think that we will suddenly become the research triangle as a result of this."

He also said he didn't think the plan would have a significant effect on municipal revenue, but added, "any giveaway of property tax revenue or sales tax revenue that would otherwise accrue to the city compounds our problems, as we would have to provide fire and police and DPW support to this kind of entity."

The plan also calls for making 3 million square feet of commercial space on private university campuses, according to the governor's press release.

It would extend to "companies with a relationship to the academic mission of the university and companies creating new jobs, including new businesses, out-of-state businesses that relocate to New York and existing businesses that expand their New York operations while maintaining their existing jobs."

SUNY has 64 campuses statewide, including Oneonta, Delhi and Cobleskill.

The Tax-Free NY attempts to expand a program already in effect at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering in the Capital Region.

According to the governor's office, by partnering with the University at Albany and the state, the college "attracted billions of dollars in private sector investment, transforming the Capital Region into the international epicenter of the commercial nano-industry."

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(c)2013 The Daily Star (Oneonta, N.Y.)

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Source: Copyright Daily Star, The (Oneonta, NY) 2013


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