By Joseph Spector
Albany Bureau Chief
ALBANY State universities, as well as some private colleges, will be tax free for businesses that locate there, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday.
The "Tax-Free NY" initiative will seek to lure start-up companies through tax-free incentives, such as no income tax for employees and no sales, property or business taxes, the governor announced at the SUNY Albany nanotech center as part of a tour of Albany, Syracuse and Buffalo.
The move comes as the state's unemployment rate lags behind the national average and as Cuomo faces criticism for his efforts to revive the upstate economy. New York has been labeled as having the most unfriendly business climate in the nation by the Tax Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington D.C.
Cuomo said the economy is improving. The unemployment rate in April fell from 8.2 percent to 7.8 percent, its lowest level since March 2009.
"This 'Tax-Free New York,' changing what they believe, changing what they know, investing in New York in a big, big way. It will take us to a level that we deserve to be at and will make this state the Empire State once again," Cuomo said.
The governor's office didn't put an estimate on how much the program would cost the state, but the tax breaks would last between 5 years to 10 years. It would apply to all State University of New York campuses outside New York City and a designated number of private colleges north of Westchester County. There was no immediate list of who would be eligible.
Cuomo said the program will make available 3 million square feet of commercial space at private colleges. Businesses who will be eligible include companies who plan to locate on the campuses and whose industries fit with the focus of the school.
The agreement requires approval of the state Legislature, but legislative leaders indicated support for the initiative.