CARS HOMES JOBS

Locals say sales tax exemption tool must stay

Saturday, February 16, 2013
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Local economic development officials will fight a proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to limit sales tax exemptions, one of their tools for attracting new companies and new jobs to the region.

Cuomo, in his 2013-14 budget, seeks to limit the ability of local industrial development agencies to offer the sales tax exemptions, offered on construction materials for new businesses. It’s one of the key incentives IDAs can offer to attract businesses to New York state.

Cuomo’s argument, in a nutshell, is that local IDAs shouldn’t deprive the state of sales tax revenue “without consulting with the state or receiving input from the regional economic development councils.”

But in Saratoga County, officials are prepared to argue that a new limit on their flexibility will hurt efforts that offer short-term tax discounts to secure new jobs and long-term economic benefits.

“It’s a mechanism that will place economic development on the back burner again,” said Michael Toohey, the attorney for the Saratoga County Industrial Development Agency.

The Saratoga County IDA has given the exemption to companies that turned out to be major employers, including the Quad/Graphics printing plant in Saratoga Springs, the Target distribution center in Wilton and, of course, GlobalFoundries.

County supervisors plan to make the issue one of their lobbying priorities when they meet with state senators and Assembly members in Albany in March.

“We believe this will result in slower growth and fewer job opportunities,” said Ryan Moore, the county’s management analyst.

Most of the time, the sales tax exemption is only a small part of the incentive package — the biggest part is usually letting a company off the hook for local property taxes for a few years.

Criticism started soon after the Cuomo budget was unveiled. The administration has recently signaled it is “open” to discussing changes.

The final decision will rest with the state Legislature in the final state budget.

Sunday morning viewing

I might actually watch some Sunday morning television this week — not a prayer hour or cooking show, but a “CBS Sunday Morning” feature about Grant Cottage.

The story of how former president Ullysses S. Grant came to a mountain house in Wilton to finish his classic memoirs — even as throat cancer stalked him in the summer of 1885 — is a neat piece of presidential history. Not everyone gets to have Mark Twain as their publisher.

Reporter Mo Rocca visited the cottage with a producer and camera crew last fall.

The feature, to air during the 9 a.m. segment, may lead to more visitors when the cottage re-opens next spring, said Tim Welch, president of the Friends of Grant Cottage.

The friends spent more than $20,000 this winter on large display panels and flat-screen monitors in the Visitors Center to make Grant’s story more accessible to modern visitors.

Stephen Williams is a Gazette reporter. The opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. He can be reached at 885-6705 or swilliams@dailygazette.net.

 
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