An unlikely coalition from New York's political right and left has called for the suspension of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Start-Up NY economic development program following reports of modest initial success and significant marketing costs.
The group represents the broadest attack on Cuomo's program so far and includes the state Conservative Party and the state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses from the right along with the left-leaning Working Families Party and Fiscal Policy Institute.
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Created in 2013, Start-Up NY creates tax-free zones at colleges and universities to encourage businesses to start or expand in New York or relocate to the state. This month the state reported that in 2014, its first full year of operation, businesses participating in Start-Up created 76 of the nearly 2,100 new jobs promised over the next five years.
State officials insist Start-Up is in its early stages and has great potential, but its critics have seized on the report as evidence of its failures. And they have criticized the $53 million spent on advertising and marketing to promote it.
"Fifty-three million dollars for 76 jobs? That's not economic development; that's lunacy," Bill Lipton, executive director of the Working Families Party said in a statement first released Wednesday to The Associated Press.
The group of critics says that as a "first step," Start-Up should be suspended while state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli performs a review.
Leslie Whatley, who Cuomo tapped to lead Start-Up, told the AP on Wednesday that it took time for the state and universities to get the program going but that momentum is now building. Fifty-four companies were approved for Start-Up in 2014, while an additional 39 have been approved in the first four months of 2015.
And she defended the advertisements, which she said do more than just market one economic development program.
"The advertising has been phenomenal. It's created a brand: 'New York is open for business,'" she said. Of the initiative as a whole, she said, "This is a great program. It's working."
Some critics dislike the policy behind the program as much as its results. Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long said Start-Up unfairly creates "winners and losers." And Mike Durant, state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, said he would prefer broader tax cuts for many than tax breaks for a selected few.
"The Start-Up New York program is a perfect example of Albany's propensity to throw sizable amounts of money in hopes of an economic solution," Durant said. "The initial reports show limited job creation amid major taxpayer cost."