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Cuomo vetoes disaster Sandy aid for retailers

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo attends a Friends of

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo attends a Friends of the Bay Cleanup at Theodore Roosevelt Park in Oyster Bay. (Sept. 21, 2013) Photo Credit: Getty Images

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has vetoed legislation permitting industrial development agencies to help retailers that are harmed by disasters, such as superstorm Sandy.

Cuomo said he nixed the bill because it would undercut a provision of the 2013-14 state budget that bars IDAs from aiding stores. He championed that restriction, saying tax breaks should be reserved for industries that pay higher wages.

"This bill incorporates no standards to ensure that IDA resources are properly directed towards those properties or enterprises in greatest need," Cuomo said in a memo Friday.

Officials at two of the three local IDAs that helped retailers reopen after Sandy struck on Oct. 29, 2012, said Monday there were still merchants seeking aid.

Before the ban on assisting stores, which took effect in late March, the three IDAs provided $2.3 million in sales-tax exemptions to about 132 retailers. The tax breaks were on construction materials, equipment and other supplies needed to reopen.

The veto doesn't rescind the previously granted incentives.

Frederick C. Braun III, chairman of the Brookhaven Town IDA, called the veto "shortsighted. We were trying to help people get back on their feet . . . Delis, stores, other kinds of retailers are an important part of the business community."

The Brookhaven IDA granted $112,000 off the sales tax to three retailers before the prohibition. The largest number, $1.9 million to 78 stores, was awarded by the Nassau County IDA.

Brian McMahon, director of the state Economic Development Council, an IDA trade group, said, "Following Hurricane Sandy, IDAs were the economic development first responders. They were the first to provide financial assistance to businesses in an effort to help them rebuild."

McMahon pledged to work with Cuomo and state lawmakers to win approval next year for the vetoed measure, which was sponsored by Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) and Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach). It had been approved overwhelmingly by the State Senate and Assembly in June.

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