NY lawmakers question Cuomo economic development efforts

Markets Associated Press

New York lawmakers from both parties criticized Gov. Andrew Cuomo's economic development efforts Wednesday, pointing to lackluster results as evidence that the state wasn't doing enough to spur job creation.

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Assembly and Senate members grilled Cuomo economic development chief Howard Zemsky during a hearing on the state budget. Many questions focused on Start-Up NY, a high-profile program that waives taxes for participating businesses.

The Democratic governor touted Start-Up as potentially "game-changing" when it began in 2013, but a report issued last year showed it has only generated 408 new jobs in its first two years, despite $53 million spent advertising the program around the country.

"The program was an epic failure," Republican Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin told Zemsky in a sometimes heated back-and-forth.

In his state budget plan, Cuomo has proposed renaming Start-Up the Excelsior Business Program and making several changes to its rules, a "reset" that Zemsky said would make it simpler and more focused on early-stage companies. He defended Start-Up and Cuomo's other economic programs, saying they've successfully reduced unemployment and repaired the state's business reputation.

Zemsky said he doesn't understand lawmakers' "anger" about Start-Up.

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"It doesn't have the instant gratification that you demand," he told the panel.

Other lawmakers questioned the need to change the program's name.

"I don't know why we would abandon a name that we spent so much time and money on," said Assemblywoman Addie Jenne, D-Theresa. "I think we should rethink that."