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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara
"Tax-Free NY, kind of"
ALBANY, June 2 -- The buzz around New York government over
the past few weeks has been
But maybe we should hold on before we go turning up the volume on that one.
The governor’s “Tax-Free NY” initiative is obviously enticing. Who, after all, can argue against paying no taxes in New York State? It proposes to utilize the State University of New York (SUNY) system, including community colleges, to offer new businesses a place to operate tax free for 10 years -- no income tax for employees, as well as no sales, property or businesses taxes. More details and fine-tuning of the plan, which requires the Legislature’s okay, are in the works. But that's the gist of it. In and around SUNY campuses, most of which are located upstate, at some private universities and in a few other chosen places, businesses would be invited to set up shop, tax free.
Here’s how the governor recently described the plan to the editorial board of the Syracuse Post-Standard: "It's big, it's bold. I think it could make a major difference."
One of the state’s leading fiscal experts, E.J. McMahon of the conservative Manhattan Institute, called the Tax-Free NY plan a “promising new wrinkle.” But he also stressed that “the state should go much further than this.”
But for the moment let’s give credit where’s it’s due and admit that the Tax-Free NY plan is bold -- just not for all of the same reasons as many of its supporters believe it is. What I mean is that the plan may be even bolder for what it admits than for what it offers to do. That’s because:
-- Tax-Free NY admits that high taxes -- business, income and property -- are a problem in New York. That’s good, because high broad-based taxes are New York’s problem and have been for a long, long time. So we welcome the admission;
-- Tax-Free NY admits that tax cuts are the best way to attract businesses and industries, and the private-sector jobs they create. That, too, is a bold admission because tax cuts are the best answer and we’ve ignored it in New York for too long; and, finally
-- Tax-Free NY admits that upstate New York needs to be the focus. "This is directed primarily to Upstate New York," the governor said, "because that's where we have an economic problem." We sure do, governor, and thanks for acknowledging it.
And yet, Tax-Free NY is admittedly limited in the scope of its boldness. What about all of the communities where there isn’t a SUNY campus nearby? What about other businesses in the neighborhood that will fall outside any tax-free zone, will still have to pay New York’s high taxes and, therefore, be rendered less competitive? How do we say it’s critical to carve out pockets of upstate prosperity, economic progress and job growth, but to the rest of upstate: sorry.
There are legitimate questions left unanswered for the time being.
For now, though, let’s stay focused on the underlying admissions of Tax-Free NY: New York State taxes are too high and cutting taxes is the most important thing we can do for the economy of upstate New York.
The Business Council of New York State reacted this way: “(Tax-Free
NY) is an innovative approach, and illustrates that we can and should
do more to make the state’s overall economic climate more competitive.”
Translated: If tax cuts are the cure for some of what ails us, how about
Unshackle Upstate responded more pointedly: “(Tax-Free NY) is another step in the right direction for the Upstate economy. However, state leaders must enact additional tax relief and regulatory reforms for all businesses across the state.”
My early take on Tax-Free NY goes something like this: Hallelujah to the admission that New York State taxes are too high and the main reason why we can’t turn our economy around, especially upstate. But let’s go statewide with the broad-based tax cuts we need before going nationwide with any chorus of “we’re tax free!”
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara
Schuyler County Officials
Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison
Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field
Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687
Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967
Doris L. Karius, 546-5544
Barbara Halpin, 594-3683
Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385
Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517
Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen 481-0482
Stewart Field, Watkins Glen 535-2335
County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133
Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222
Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222
County Treasurer: Margaret Starbuck, 535-8181
District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383
State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County
Sen. Charles E. Schumer
United States Senate
Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senate
State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)
Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Assemblyman Christopher Friend --
Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869