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Cuomo makes a case for more IDA oversight

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks to Newsday's editorial board about the future of the Long Island Power Authority. Videojournalist: Sam Guzik (Feb. 14, 2013)

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Thursday he wants industrial development agencies to be more effective in preserving and creating jobs -- and that's best achieved through more state oversight.

Cuomo, speaking to reporters after a budget address at SUNY Old Westbury, explained the reasoning behind his proposal to require IDA projects that receive an exemption from state sales tax to be ratified by a gubernatorially-appointed Regional Economic Development Council. Only seven business sectors would be eligible for the exemptions, fewer than receive them now.

IDAs provide tax breaks to expanding businesses in return for commitments to stay here and to create jobs. The Cuomo initiative is included in his proposed 2013-14 state budget.

The governor said Thursday, "When it comes to the IDAs that are giving out tax benefits, I want to make sure these entities are doing it as well as it can possibly be done. That there is coordination. That there is a plan.

"That we're not stealing one business from one side of town and giving it a tax break to move to the other side of town, which generates no new jobs, costs tax dollars and just has us competing with ourselves," he said.

Earlier this week, two Assembly Republicans requested publicly that Cuomo explain why his proposed changes were needed.

Statewide, IDA officials have criticized the changes as diminishing local control over building projects and potentially delaying them.

There were 114 active IDAs in 2010, including eight on Long Island, according to the most recent data from the state comptroller.

Together, the IDAs awarded $1.3 billion in tax breaks; the lion's share for property taxes.

Exemptions from the state sales tax totaled $47.4 million. Cuomo's proposal is limited to IDA actions that affect this levy.

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