State legislative session breaks for summer

Lawmakers make over economic proposal, shelve equality act

BY KATHY KAHN

For The Rockland Times

Albany’s Legislature broke for the summer on June 20, leaving Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s ambitious business attraction program bruised but not battered and putting a gambling referendum on the state’s November ballot.

“Tax Free New York” now “START-UP NY”

The Legislature’s answer to Tax Free New York, touted heavily by Cuomo and his immediate cabinet members, was an alternate proposal, START-UP NY, which places more oversight and restrictions on the original proposal. START-UP NY was passed by both Houses.

Similar to Cuomo’s original proposal, START-UP NY will require no business/corporate tax, sales or property tax or state income tax to be charged for the first five years. In the next five years of the 10-year plan, employees will pay state tax on incomes over $200,000 for individuals, $250,000 for head of household and $300,000 for taxpayers filing a joint return. The number of net new jobs eligible for personal income tax exclusion cannot exceed 10,000 new jobs per year.

Eligible businesses in the “tax free” communities must be aligned with or create programs to further the academic mission of the sponsor SUNY or private college campus. Those accepted into START-UP NY must be either a new business, a company relocating into the state or an expansion of an existing in-state company—with the caveat that the business can demonstrate it is creating new jobs and not rearranging existing jobs.

Start-ups “hatched” from college or county business incubators will be eligible to enter tax-free community college campuses and take advantage of the benefits. START-UP NY prohibits retail and wholesale businesses and restaurants and bans companies that would unfairly compete with nearby existing businesses.

Businesses applying for START-UP NY would have to maintain a presence on vacant land on SUNY campuses or in an area within one mile of the campus on every campus north or west of Westchester. To relocate further outside the “tax free” zone would require approval from Empire State Development. For those campuses with limited space, the business would be required to locate to state-owned vacant land or facilities and transform those sites into a regional economic engine; i.e., Rockland Psychiatric Center.

To dispel the abuse that was rampant in the former Empire Zone program, ESD is charged with reviewing company data to ensure new job creation and to end participation by companies failing to create net new jobs on a regular basis. ESD will also publish a comprehensive annual report enabling the public to evaluate the program’s impact.

The START-UP NY economic initiative is tentatively scheduled to end by 2020.

Are casinos in New York’s future?

Love them or hate them, there are already 19 racinos in New York “that all call themselves casinos,” said Cuomo in April, 2013, shortly after the budget passed. “We also have 39 casinos surrounding us in other states that are drawing New Yorkers to their destinations and taking their money out of the state.”

Before the Legislature broke for summer, it gave the OK for a November referendum for four non-Indian casinos to be built in upstate New York, with Cuomo asking that two be located in the Catskill region and two others further upstate.

The goal, said Cuomo, “is to boost upstate development by attracting New York City’s 8.2million residents and 50 million yearly tourists” and redirecting casino traffic currently flowing to Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania to New York resort destination sites.

Several high-profile investors have been seeking casino approval, In Sullivan county, Empire Resorts has been doing preliminary groundwork on the former Concord Hotel site in Kiamesha Lake and Muss Development is seeking to build on the former Grossinger’s Hotel site in Liberty. Nevele Investors LLC, new owners of the Nevele Hotel in Ulster County’s village of Ellenville, is also banking on voters to pass the November referendum to allow traditional gaming in the Empire State. Cuomo said a new Gaming Commission, formed in February, 2013, would ultimately choose the successful bidders, “keeping the politics out of the decision making” should the referendum pass voters’ muster.

Women’s Equality Act on hold
With 10 provisions of the 2013 Women’s Equality Act supported by lawmakers, nine of them were supported by both sides of the aisle, but the one that dealt with expanding abortion rights stalled Legislative approval. Neither side could come to terms with the wording of the legislation. It is expected to be picked up again when the House and Senate when they return from break.

Legislature goes paperless
The Associated Press reported lawmakers approved a bill before the session ended to go “paperless,” estimated to save the state a total of over $50 million a year in printing and waste disposal costs. Like so many other state and local municipalities, print copies will be available upon request.