Gov. Andrew Cuomo presents his Tax-Free NY Initiative to a packed house in the University Union's Mandela Room.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
Gov. Andrew Cuomo touts tax-free initiativeTweet
Gov. Andrew Cuomo made his first visit to Binghamton University on Thursday to stump for his recently announced Tax-Free NY Initiative. In welcoming him to campus, President Harvey Stenger told the standing-room only crowd that the campus had prepared for the governor’s visit as it would for any special guest: “We cleaned up and invited the neighbors.”
“We already know we’re a great educational system − one of greatest in the nation − and the state has already made steps to involve us in economic development through the Regional Economic Development Councils,” said Stenger. The governor has chosen presidents of higher education institutions to chair these councils “because he knows we have a huge opportunity before us and that we already have a very large impact on the state’s economy.”
Cuomo told the audience that the government in Albany is working again and its number one mission is to get the economy running. “We have to do something about the reputation of New York as a high-tax state,” he said. “That’s a reality. Our taxes are too high. Businesses are more mobile and they will go to a lower tax environment. They have been doing that for 20 years.
“This is not a perception problem,” he said. “It’s a reality problem.”
Step two is to invest in the regional economies and get the academic institutions to be part of the partnership, working with regions to develop jobs and giving the local regions the tools they need to build their economies. “We want to bring all the pieces together and that will take a big solution,” Cuomo said. “We need to take that idea of New York as a high-tax state and explode it and shatter it and create 100 percent tax-free communities all across the state, primarily in Upstate New York.”
The economy is growing due to higher education and that’s where the jobs are being created, Cuomo said, through a positive synergy between academic and entrepreneurial activity. “New York has some of the best schools in the nation, public and private, and we are generating the jobs in New York state,” he said. “But we lose 75 percent of the jobs we create within the first year because new businesses are mobile and New York is anti-business − and because in the long term, New York is not a good place for business.”
New York is in competition with every other state, Cuomo said. “There are no-tax states that call our businesses all day long. It’s a competition and they are winning every day and have been for the past 20 years.”
The sweet spot, Cuomo said, is where entrepreneurial activity meets academic activity. “We want to promote entrepreneurial, tax-free communities. No games, no gimmicks, 100 percent tax-free for 10 years. That is a significant package that will make a big, big difference.
“This is not a boutique approach,” Cuomo added. “This is a large-scale, massive economic transformation of Upstate New York that fundamentally shifts the trajectory and builds on our current efforts.”
Cuomo’s Tax-Free NY Initiative will create tax-free environments for new businesses around SUNY campuses and some private universities. These businesses will be exempt from business, corporate, sales and property taxes, franchise fees and income taxes for 10 years. Qualified owners and employees of these businesses will also be exempt from income taxes for the 10-year period.
“Big change is frightening,” Cuomo said, “but this is a state that was born from big ideas and nobody came to New York who was faint of heart. We come from people who take risks, who dream big and act big and bold. That’s who we are and where we come from and what the times demand. We require a big solution if we are to make a difference.
“We created the problem in the first place and we can create the solution. It starts with this. We should have done this 20 years ago, but it’s not too late to do it now,” Cuomo concluded. “But I need your help. We need this passed. Upstate New York matters and counts and this is geared to New York and where New York needs help. If you speak, the politicians listen.”