ASTORINO IS RIGHT ABOUT START-UP NY … THINK ACORN ON TAX DOLLARS!!!
Gov. Andrew Cuomo told a local crowd last summer that his START-UP NY program could be a “catalyst for dramatic transformation.”
Rob Astorino, Cuomo’s Republican opponent in the Nov. 4 election, called the tax-break initiative “the biggest fraud on television” during a Wednesday campaign trip to Rochester.
The program was one of many economic issues where Astorino sought to draw distinctions between Cuomo and himself while also casting doubt on his opponent’s claims of delivering tax relief.There are local stakes in the future of START-UP NY, which offers a 10-year break from income taxes for high-tech companies that relocate or expand on a qualified site — usually property owned by a college. The program recently helped lure data backup and recovery firm Datto to the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Center for Urban Entrepreneurship downtown.
Datto opened its local office in August and expects to eventually employ about 70 people.
But Astorino suggested Wednesday that any benefits from START-UP NY could be fleeting. The program is “exactly what’s wrong with New York state right now,” he said during an interview with the Democrat and Chronicle Editorial Board.
The program picks and chooses winners — in this case, high-tech companies — over other businesses, Astorino said. He predicted that firms involved in the program will simply pack up and leave New York when their taxfree decade ends.
After learning of Astorino’s remarks, Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, a political ally of Cuomo, released a statement that said START-UP NY was a bipartisan effort that uses universities and research centers to promote entrepreneurship and grow the upstate economy.
“Rob Astorino’s lack of understanding of the most basic principles of economic development ought to give upstate voters significant pause when going to the polls this November,” said Morelle, D-Irondequoit.
Indeed, some Senate Republicans have touted START-UP NY, too. Astorino said they are taking an undeserved victory lap and there is more work to do.
However, when asked about the case of Datto in Rochester, Astorino said the few companies to benefit from START-UP NY should continue to do so.
Rather than offer limited incentives, Astorino said state government needs to tackle the underlying problem that drags down the economy — the tax burden.
“Why don’t we correct the problem that we know exists?” he said. “It’s why businesses are leaving the state in record numbers.”
Astorino favors replacing New York’s eighttiered graduated income tax with just two brackets. He said he also wants to eliminate the estate tax and a state energy tax.
Republican Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks joined Astorino at the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center and spoke in support of his tax platform. Astorino also was scheduled to speak at the Irondequoit Kiwanis Club and a Monroe County Republicans’ dinner.
At the Democrat and Chronicle Editorial Board, Astorino spoke about his work as Westchester County executive, saying he worked in a bipartisan manner to trim property taxes in his first budget and has not raised them since. He first took office in 2010.
On other fronts, Astorino said that while he takes environmental concerns seriously, he supports the use of hydrofracking to drill for natural gas. He said he would seek a buffer zone near watersheds.
Astorino took several shots at Cuomo. He said corruption in New York is “despicable” and that he hadn’t picked up the governor’s new book because “I don’t read fiction.”
At the local level, Astorino also referred Wednesday to a recent study that ranked the Rochester metropolitan area 343rd out of 363 in the U.S. in terms of its average annual growth. He also called the region’s child poverty rate “shameful.”
“It doesn’t have to be that way,” he said. “We can go back to the real great days that Rochester had, and Rochester can have a wonderful future.”
LAUREN PETRACCA/@LAURENPETRACCA/ STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER