ALBANY _ The Sunshine State sent a snarky greeting Monday to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo over TV ads aimed at luring employers to New York with a promise of temporary tax breaks.
"We know a huckster when we see one," chortled Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater after releasing a letter to Cuomo Monday.
“It is perfectly understandable that you would want to stay in touch with so many former New Yorkers who have already discovered the allure of the Sunshine State and chosen to relocate to Florida,” Atwater wrote Cuomo.
“However, I feel compelled to point out some of the more glaring errors and misstatements in your ‘Open for Business’ and 'Start-Up NY’ ad campaigns,” the Republican continued. “These advertisements portray an image of New York that simple cannot be supported by facts.”
The ads use selected employment data, images of whirring machinery and comments from happy workers while ignoring some cellar-dwelling rankings to portray a rosy view of New York this election year.
Cuomo shot back at Atwater with some New York snark of his own.
“For a CFO, he must be pretty bad at math if he doesn’t understand that the zero in StartUp’s zero-tax zones means no state taxes for new businesses,” said Cuomo spokesman Matt Wing in a prepared statement.
The StartUp NY program offers employers 10 years of tax-free operation for a qualified business and its workers if they locate or expand in New York.
Cuomo’s effort comes as New York has long held the bottom or near-bottom ranking among states for tax burden and for attributes most sought by employers.
The nonpartisan Tax Foundation, a national think tank, ranked New York 48th among states on tax burden this year, up from last a year ago.
Atwater cited six other surveys and data comparisons that show New York trails Florida, which has no personal income tax. Although Florida is about to surpass New York as the third most populous state, Atwater says Florida’s state budget is 80 percent smaller than New York’s $135 billion budget.
“I would be happy to assist you further in clarifying and correcting your data and am delighted that New York has rediscovered the wisdom of developing a healthy business climate,” Atwater stated.
Cuomo’s Empire State Development Corp. is just starting to answer some questions about those to New Yorkers.
The ads promoting what Cuomo calls “the new New York” and tourism have cost $124 million since 2011, according to data released to Newsday under a state Freedom of Information request. Another $37.5 million was spent in a federal grant intended to revitalize coastal areas hit by Superstorm Sandy.
In all, $161 million has been spent so far from an ad fund that totals $237.5 million, according to the request for public records first made on Sept. 23, 2013 and responded to in part by the Cuomo administration last week.
New York plans to spend nearly $80 million more by the end of next year.
Sixty percent of the $64.3 million spent on TV and radio ads on “economic development” was spent in other states, the response stated.
Fifty-one percent of $22.9 million spent on TV and radio ads promoting summer tourism, some featuring singer Billy Joel extolling the Long Island’s attributes, was spent in other states.
Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino has said the ads are thinly disguised campaign ads for Cuomo at the taxpayers’ expense.
"This is a swindle of historic proportions," Astorino said in a statement. "Andrew Cuomo has taken more than a quarter billion dollars of taxpayer money and put it into television advertising for his own political gain. People have been locked in jail for far less than that."
The Cuomo campaign responded that the ads are intended to attract jobs and boost tourism. The Cuomo administration notes that neither Cuomo’s image nor name are used in the ads, which is prohibited by law.