Spin Cycle

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Private colleges on Long Island would have a shot at participating in Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s “tax-free communities” program formally unveiled Monday.

Since kicking off a campaign for it last month, Cuomo has focused on State University of New York campuses and primarily billed it as a boost for upstate. The proposal would allow businesses to build tax-free facilities up to 200,000 square feet located within one mile of a designated SUNY campus.

The governor introduced a bill Monday to establish the program and it includes provisions to allow private colleges in Nassau and Suffolk counties to compete to host up to 60,000 square feet of “tax-free” space to lure businesses. Each county would be capped at 30,000 square feet. Westchester County also would be allocated 30,000 square feet.

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The Cuomo administration says the incentive will help lure new businesses to locate near college campuses in New York, saying it will “enable campuses to serve as economic engines for their communities.”

Under the plan, the state would collect no property taxes, corporate taxes, sales taxes or even state income taxes for employees of relocated businesses for up to 10 years. However, employees earning $200,000 or more would be tax free for just five years.

Business groups have generally hailed the plan, though some have expressed a preference for across-the-board tax cuts rather than targeted incentives. The Long Island Association has spoken in favor and called for private collegest to be included.

On the other side, the Conservative Party, unions and liberal-leaning groups have ripped the idea. Conservatives said government shouldn’t control “areas where people will get a free ride.” Unions have said the program is another giveaway to big business.
The Legislature, which would have to approve the proposal, is set conclude the 2013 session on June 20.