Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo wants to revamp the state's primary economic development program, the one-year-old Excelsior Jobs Program.

In his 2011-12 budget proposal released Tuesday, Cuomo said the program's tax credits should be awarded to high-growth businesses that create many jobs and make significant investments in facilities and equipment. He wants the companies' performance to be judged periodically instead of when the tax credits end. He also would streamline the application and approval process for the credits.

The tax credit program replaced the much-maligned Empire Zones Program last year under then-Gov. David A. Paterson. The program would target "strategic industries" such as high tech, biotech, manufacturing, agribusiness and financial services, a gubernatorial aide told Newsday.

Under Cuomo's plan, tax credits would last for 10 years instead of five and would be based on the projected income tax receipts for each job created, not up to $5,000 per new job.

Kevin Law, former head of the Long Island Power Authority and now president of the Long Island Association, likes the tax credit proposal.

He said the proposal is "something that is very interesting and worthy of some strong consideration for support."

Program rules faulted

A local business owner is hoping any new programs are easier to access.

Robert Basso, president of Advantage Payroll Services in Freeport, said that while his business has benefited from the tax credits in the Empire Zones Program, which is being phased out, he had to hire an outside consultant to manage the documentation and communications with the state.

"The paperwork is choking me," he said. He hopes new programs are "more streamlined for the small-business community."

Cuomo also wants to make permanent the Power for Jobs Program, which provides low-cost electricity through the New York Power Authority to large employers such as factories and hospitals. The future of the program, to be renamed the Recharge New York Power Program, has been in limbo because lawmakers disagree over how to make it permanent and whether to transfer some cheap electricity from upstate homes to businesses. Cuomo said his proposals would make power available to employers that don't now receive it.

North Shore-LIJ Health Systems has participated in the program since 1999 and saves about $2 million in electricity costs annually across the 14-hospital network, said Frank Porretto, energy manager for the hospital system.

"We are very supportive," he said. "It allows us to retain our employee count."

As part of a larger effort to consolidate state agencies, Cuomo proposes to collapse the Foundation for Science, Technology and Innovation, which promotes university research, into the Empire State Development Corp., the state's primary economic development organization. The merger would save $1.9 million while a further $2.5 million would come from a 10-percent reduction in spending by economic development agencies.

Growth strategies planned

Cuomo noted New York's private-sector employment fell by 150,000 jobs between 2000 and last year while state aid to businesses grew from $448 million per year to $1.6 billion in the same period. "Businesses participating in programs have not been held accountable for job growth, and regional efforts to forge effective development plans have been superseded by priorities set in Albany," he said.

To address this, Cuomo wants to create 10 regional councils charged with formulating a business development strategy for their respective region and to award state money to businesses. The councils would compete for about $130 million in state grants and $70 million in tax credits. A further $100 million in economic development aid would be directed to Metropolitan Transportation Authority building projects.

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