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EDITORIAL: Tax free plans lack realistic vision

There’s nothing quite like the final days of the legislative session in Albany.

Deals are struck, compromises made and positions forced from politicians in the matter of a feverish handful of hours before lawmakers are scheduled to pack up and head back to their districts for the rest of the year. If the rest of the session could operate at this pace, something might actually get done now and again.

Though many big issues were deferred on, leading to a less-than-satisfying end to the session, the legislature in this past week did move on some major items. A number of women’s rights laws were passed (excepting a big, controversial abortion statute) and the first steps to bring casino gambling to the state were made. And let’s not forget the seismic impact of the SAFE Act, which was passed earlier in the year but still counts on the 2013 scoreboard.

Among all the last-minute clamor, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s much ballyhooed “Tax Free NY” plan was passed without too much notice. Well, it’s actually now known as “Start-Up NY,” thanks to a late-game rebranding worthy of a Don Draper monologue.

Put simply, the program establishes zones at and near universities that will give approved businesses a 10-year window to operate sans taxes, including income tax for most employees.

Cuomo signed the law in Vestal, at Binghamton University. The location was not chosen by mistake – the Southern Tier community is home to a major branch of the state university system but has been economically pummeled by the loss of industry over the past few decades.

The idea is not without merit. Attracting businesses to Upstate New York should be among the top concerns of any governor, to be sure, and offering the incentives found in Start-Up NY is one way to attract the attention of employers who will hire the young, trained and well-paid workforce that is simply bleeding out of the state.

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