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LI schools can join state tax-free program

ALBANY - 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 state-tax-free facilities up to 200,000 square feet if located within one mile of a designated SUNY campus.

Cuomo introduced a bill Monday to establish the program. It includes provisions to allow private colleges in Nassau and Suffolk counties to compete to host up to 30,000 square feet of "tax-free" space to lure businesses. He says the incentive 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. The Long Island Association favors the plan. The Conservative Party, unions and liberal-leaning groups have attacked the idea.

The proposal requires approval by the Legislature, which is set to end the 2013 session on June 20.

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