In 2011, Manhattan-based drugmaker Forest Laboratories faced incentive bids from...

In 2011, Manhattan-based drugmaker Forest Laboratories faced incentive bids from New Jerey, Ohio, Missouri and Long Island when it planned a $39 million project to consolidate its Suffolk operations, as well as convert factory space. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Hey, Long Island business owners, did you know you can lower your taxes if you threaten to leave the region, say you might have to close your doors or promise to expand?

Generally, businesses will do what's best for their prospects and seek whatever tax breaks might be available. But a $380,000 advertising campaign launched last week by the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency wants to make sure companies know they may not have to pay the full rates. The Suffolk IDA had a similar campaign last year, and the Nassau County, Brookhaven and Babylon IDAs also have used such marketing campaigns. The ads are paid for by the IDAs, not taxpayers, yet they still cost taxpayers money. Because every IDA tax break granted means a tax increase for property owners who pay full rates.

There is a need for a methodical and regional approach to business development that would, in special circumstances, provide tax breaks for game-changing employers. But what we have now is county and town IDAs that give breaks to companies that don't deserve them, or poach businesses from other parts of the Island, a shell game in which taxpayers lose every bet. Retail outlets, car lots, hotels and gyms have gotten breaks, but why? They don't need convincing to open where their customers are, and such businesses can't leave. And why grant breaks to businesses moving within the Island?

Advertising and arranging these reductions is in the best interests of the IDAs, which pay their bills with the application fees of businesses seeking the breaks and often are staffed by political hacks. But the reductions often are not in the best interests of the taxpayers or the region. They need to be curtailed, and the whole system overhauled.

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