Officials: Tax-free zones not enough to change economy

Gov. Andrew Cuomo may be making a big push to allow high-tech businesses from other states and abroad to relocate near colleges campuses in New York state, but state and local lawmakers are still calling for more.

According to the Associated Press, the proposal would waive all business and property taxes, as well as income taxes, for companies bringing in new business. The benefits would last five to 10 years, depending on the deals worked out with the companies, which would need to partner with a college. The companies would have to be working in an area compatible with the academics of the college.

Although they are pleased with the initiative, state Sen. Catharine Young, R-C-I-Olean, Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-C-I-Chautauqua County and Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards all agreed the tax cuts for new jobs are not enough for this area.

“I support every effort to reduce taxes on our residents and our businesses,” said Goodell. “Right now, New York state is ranked 50th in the nation for having the highest taxes. Those high taxes cost New York state jobs. If we are serious about improving our economic climate in New York state and creating more jobs, we need to aggressively reduce taxes. So, I applaud the governor’s efforts to create the tax-free zones, and I wish that the governor would do more to reduce taxes for everyone across New York state so we could truly revitalize this economy.”

Young echoed Goodell, and emphasized that the state Senate has been working diligently to ease the tax burden during this year’s budget process.

“While I am in support of any initiative that grows more private sector jobs and our economy, I believe that we also need broad-based tax relief and regulatory reform to make our state more competitive,” she said. “Changing the overall business climate will help us keep our existing small businesses and manufacturers, and attract new ones.”

The impact the governor’s proposal would have on Chautauqua County is yet to be seen, according to Edwards. Although he has not yet had a chance to thoroughly review the proposal, Edwards said he does not foresee a substantial change.

“I think the solution to New York’s problems about not having the jobs it needs is not to give this sort of dramatic special break to very few companies, but to reduce the tax burden on businesses throughout the state,” Edwards said. “Any and all help that can be directed toward upstate is welcomed, but, from my first review of this proposal, I don’t see it as being something that is going to have this sort of dramatic impact that merely lowering taxes overall would.”

If a business is paying no tax, Edwards said there is someone else down the line who would have to pay more taxes if the system is not modified.

“So, my fear is that this will be beneficial to a very small number of people in the jobs being created, but the rest of the tax-paying entities and people would have to pay more to make up for the difference,” he said.

However, Cuomo claims there would be no revenue lost by issuing tax breaks. During a conference call Thursday, he pointed out the jobs would not be there in the first place, if not created by this initiative. As for cutting other taxes, Cuomo said it would be too expensive.

“We’re trying to cut taxes, and we have cut taxes, and I will cut taxes more, because I believe it works,” Cuomo said. “But, cutting taxes is very expensive. We don’t have the revenues to cut taxes. This program is for new jobs. New jobs, meaning start-ups on the campus, business from out-of-state, or bonafide new company jobs. Not job transfers. This is new jobs.”