Bills to reform IDAs pass New York State Senate

Melissa Koenig for LI Herald

Originally published in Long Island Herald

The New York State Senate voted in June to pass two of State Sen. Todd Kaminsky’s bills designed to reform industrial development agencies.

The first, S.97b, would prevent politicians from receiving legal fees, consulting contracts and salaries from IDAs. Its counterpart in the Assembly is sponsored by Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages, a Democrat from Elmont. She said she expects the legislation to come to a vote next year.

“We want to make sure that the money IDAs generate go to important services that benefit the IDAs,” Kaminsky said, “and not to political cronies.”

The other bill, S.4766, would close the so-called “tourism loophole,” by requiring the county executive to verify that a business is regionally significant to receive a tax break. In the past, businesses near the Nassau and Queens County border have exploited the loophole by claiming that their business attracted customers from the other county.

“It seemed like tax breaks were being handed out like candy,” Kaminsky said. The Assembly version of this bill, sponsored by Taylor Raynor, a Democrat from Uniondale, is still in committee, however.

The news comes after two bills Solages sponsored to further reform IDAs passed both houses. One of which would ensure that all IDA meetings are livestreamed, and the other would ensure that every entity be notified when a business in their area is seeking a tax break.

She said she was inspired to create these bills due to problems associated with the 15-year tax breaks granted to Green Acres Mall, which led to a dramatic spike in property taxes for Valley Stream residents.

After the Town of Hempstead IDA approved the tax break in 2015, which took the mall off the tax rolls and reduced its tax burden for 15 years, District 30 officials claimed they did not know how much less they would be receiving in tax revenue.

The tax break also reduced the amount that District 30 had to pay to the high school district, which in turn increased the amount residents and businesses in districts 13 and 24 had to pay to the district.

“It’s very important that we learn the lesson of what happened in Valley Stream,” Solages said, adding that those two bills have not yet been sent to the governor for approval, but she expects his office to receive them over the next few months.