Gov. Andrew Cuomo released legislation today on his Tax-Free NY proposal, and it includes allowing development near some college campuses in New York City and its suburbs and limits the income-tax breaks for wealthy workers in the destination areas.
Cuomo’s proposal would allow businesses to pay no taxes for 10 years if they locate near public and private colleges. It’s mainly targeted for upstate to bolster the upstate economy, but it does include provisions to help downstate—a way to garner support in the Legislature from downstate members who wanted their regions to be included.
“This legislation will promote entrepreneurialism and job creation by transforming public higher education as “Tax- Free Communities” across the state, particularly upstate,” Cuomo’s bill memo states.
The bill, which Cuomo hopes lawmakers adopt before the legislative session ends June 20, would allow businesses to build tax-free facilities up to 200,000 square feet located within one mile of a designated college campus. It would include five city university campuses, one in each borough, and located in the area with the highest poverty rate.
Overall, 3 million square feet of property would be available for the tax-free program north of Westchester County. The approval would come from a three-member board appointed by the governor and legislative leaders.
Of the 3 million square feet, 30,000 square feet would be allocated for each of some downstate counties: Westchester; Nassau and Suffolk on Long Island; and the four boroughs outside Manhattan.
The land available would also include 20 sites on vacant state land or facilities slated for closure, such as old prisons.
A controversial piece of his plan would allow workers on the sites to not pay any income taxes for 10 years. Yet in the second five years of the program, earnings that exceed $200,000 would be taxed, the bill said.
Cuomo said the goal is to promote capital investment in New York, which has lagged in luring venture capital. New York universities ranked second nationally in annual research spending at $4 billion, behind only California, according to a 2010 state report. Yet only 4.6 percent of the total was spent by private industry, Cuomo’s bill states.
“SUNY campuses across the state offer world-class programs in fields ranging from business to viticulture to computer science to electrical engineering which translate into a highly skilled workforce that can help companies and communities thrive upstate,” Cuomo’s bill memo states.