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Cuomo's effort to rein in IDAs under fire

The governor's economic development czar Kenneth Adams heard

The governor's economic development czar Kenneth Adams heard displeasure over the governor's plan for more oversight of Industrial Development Agencies during a hearing Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, in Albany. Advocates accused the governor of trying to undercut local control of economic development. (Feb. 1, 2013) Credit: Bloomberg News

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's plan for more state oversight of Industrial Development Agencies was criticized Tuesday by Republican assemblymen and a trade group for IDAs.

In a hearing in Albany on Cuomo's proposed 2013-14 budget, advocates for IDAs, which aid expanding businesses, accused the governor of trying to undercut local control of economic development. A Cuomo aide rebutted those arguments, saying greater oversight wouldn't compromise IDA independence.

Meanwhile, Newsday has learned a group of seven local IDAs has suggested alternatives to Cuomo that would exempt projects from state review if they've already been approved by a gubernatorially appointed Regional Economic Development Council or comply with the council's five-year strategy to grow jobs.

At the hearing, Kenneth Adams, Cuomo's economic development czar, was questioned about the governor's proposal to require IDA projects that receive an exemption from state sales tax to be ratified by a regional council. Only seven business sectors would be eligible for the exemptions, fewer than receive them now.

Assemb. Steven F. McLaughlin (R-Melrose) said Cuomo's initiative contradicts his effort to boost local input, via the councils, on decisions about how Albany awards state tax credits and grants to businesses.

Assemb. Robert Oaks (R-Macedon) added building projects would be delayed and "local determination" of them lost.

Adams replied that his agency, the Empire State Development Corp., values IDAs and will work to ensure the councils don't hold up the approval process. "We won't create any roadblocks," he said. "This is simply a way to make sure we are aligning all of these [state] resources . . . in a cohesive, strategic way."

But Brian McMahon, director of the state Economic Development Council, called for the removal of Cuomo's proposal from the budget "because it would be detrimental to local economic development."

Locally, the IDA coalition is pushing for exclusions to the new oversight regimen.

Coalition leader Kevin Law said it would work with Cuomo and lawmakers "to ensure that the IDAs can continue to be effective while becoming more transparent as the governor desires." (Law also is president of the Long Island Association business group and co-vice chairman of the local council.)

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