Empire Zone Changes Moving Ahead Despite Opposition

George Winner

April 03, 2009

Albany, N.Y., April 3–State Senator George Winner (R-C-I, Elmira) said today that the approval of changes to New York’s Empire Zone program contained in the 2009-2010 state budget being enacted by Governor David Paterson and the Legislature’s Democratic majorities put up “a major roadblock to this region’s ability to attract and retain local jobs.  It could stop local economic development dead in its tracks.  It’s devastating and unthinkable to take an action like this one at this time."

Winner is leading Republican opposition to the move and is sponsoring an amendment to the Democrats’ plan that will be considered by the full Senate later today.  Winner’s amendment would do away with the proposed Empire Zone changes until a new economic development strategy is worked out and put in place by the governor and the Legislature.

He noted that Democrat opposition to this year's budget plan has also surfaced.

“The Democratic budget makes the border of New York State one long ‘Going Out of Business’ sign,” said Winner.  “It eliminates upstate New York’s number one economic development tool during the worst economic crisis any of us can remember.  How does that make sense?”

Under the Democrats’ plan, Empire Zone decision-making will immediately be taken out of the hands of local administrators and centralized in Albany, higher cost-to-benefit standards will make it harder for even existing businesses to continue to qualify for benefits, and the entire Empire Zone program will be eliminated next June.   Winner said that while legislative negotiations are supposed to take place before then on how best to replace the Empire Zone program, the success of those negotiations is far from guaranteed and, in the meantime, local economic developers are being left with nothing to offer potential employers.

“It’s a job-killer for our region.  You can't change the rules in the middle of the game, go back on your word, and ever expect New York to be seen as a good place to do business and create jobs.  That’s just common economic sense,” said Winner.  “In my view, the Democratic budget poses a serious threat to the ability of many local employers and workers to hang on through this economic crisis.  It’s an attack on our workers and their families, our employers, and our communities.”