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Cuomo to study retail tax-breaks bill

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announces his appointment for

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announces his appointment for the Moreland Commission to investigate the state legislature at Hofstra University Club. (July 2, 2013) Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Tuesday said he would keep an open mind in deciding whether to sign into law a bill that permits industrial development agencies to help retailers that are harmed by disasters, such as superstorm Sandy.

In March, Cuomo successfully lobbied for a prohibition against IDAs providing tax breaks to stores. As a result, merchants hurt by Sandy are no longer eligible for sales-tax exemptions offered by IDAs on construction materials and equipment needed to reopen.

The new bill, approved overwhelmingly by the State Senate and Assembly last month, creates an exception for damaged retailers located in a county that has been declared a federal disaster area. The legislation also would cover merchants harmed by the Oct. 29 storm.

Asked about the bill Tuesday after an event at Hofstra University, Cuomo said, "I don't have an opinion on it yet. I want to study the bill . . . it's a complicated issue."

He said, "Of course, we want to help retailers. I understand the damage that has been done . . . I understand the need. I want to make sure the IDAs are the best way to do it."

Cuomo said he expects to receive the bill soon. The measure was sponsored by Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) and Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach).

A spokesman for Senate Republicans, who control the upper chamber in a coalition with independent Democrats, said the legislation could reach the governor's office by the middle of the month.

The spokesman said the Senate and Cuomo negotiate when bills will reach his desk, because once they do, he only has 10 days to make a decision. Both houses jointly passed 650 bills in the regular legislative session that ended June 21.

"I pray the governor sees the merit in this bill and signs it quickly," said Joseph J. Kearney, executive director of the Nassau County IDA.

The Nassau IDA is one of three local IDAs that provided more than $3.4 million in sales-tax breaks to nearly 170 companies after Sandy, many of them retailers. Other participants were the Suffolk IDA and Brookhaven Town IDA.

Brian McMahon, executive director of the state Economic Development Council, said the tax breaks "provide some relief fairly quickly, and that's important because these stores need to reopen quickly if they are to remain in business."

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