START-UP NY Cronyism: Pay to play with Cuomo and SUNY Albany

Legislative Press Release from Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor (R – Fishkill)

Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor (R,C,I – Fishkill) is charging SUNY Albany and Governor Cuomo with flagrant pay-to-play cronyism as part of the START-UP NY program. The school chose two major university donors, one of them a SUNY Albany Foundation board member, as the winners to host Cuomo’s START-UP NY tax free zones.

“This is pay-to-play cronyism at its worst,” said Lalor. “Do you need to be a SUNY Albany donor to participate in START-UP NY? Because, that’s what it looks like. How could they even consider awarding START-UP NY status to a university foundation board member? It’s a gross conflict of interest. It’s hard to believe that the two best sites for this program just happened to be owned by SUNY Albany insiders.”

According to the Albany Business Review, SUNY Albany has applied to award the lucrative tax-free START-UP NY status to two locations in the Albany region. One is owned by SUNY Albany Foundation board member and university donor Edward Swyer. The second site is owned by Tracy Metzger, who has served on fundraising committees for university organizations. The locations chosen by SUNY Albany will be able to offer tax-free space to lease, including zero income taxes or corporate taxes for the renter.

Lalor says that by allowing these properties owned by SUNY Albany cronies to enjoy tax free status through START-UP NY, SUNY Albany is using the program to enrich their friends and donors at taxpayer expense. Additionally, Lalor states that SUNY Albany is disadvantaging other commercial property owners in the area when their property suddenly becomes less valuable because their tenants will have to pay taxes while tenants at facilities owned by SUNY Albany cronies will not.

Said Lalor, “Crony-capitalism and central planning programs like START-UP NY do not create jobs or grow the economy. They allow a few connected insiders to make a killing while forcing the rest of us to carry a greater burden.”

Lalor continued, “From the beginning, Cuomo’s START-UP NY scheme was ripe for cronyism and abuse. Now we see it happening at SUNY Albany. SUNY Albany and Governor Cuomo are endorsing a pay to play economy. Write a check and they’ll reward you. If you don’t know the right people and can’t write a check you’re out of luck.”

START-UP NY passed the legislature and was signed into law by Governor Cuomo last year. Lalor was one of only 32 Assembly votes against the bill. He was an early and vocal critic of the program. When START-UP NY passed the legislature Lalor protested, “All New Yorkers need tax relief, not just a few well-connected companies located on college campuses.”

While Cuomo was promoting passage of the START-UP NY bill, he bragged that it would have no cost to taxpayers. Then the governor’s own budget office released its quarterly budget report projecting START-UP NY will cost taxpayers $323 million to subsidize. That does not include lost local tax revenue. Last year Lalor introduced Assembly Bill A.8131 to repeal the START-UP NY program.

Concluded Lalor, “START-UP NY is faux economic development which is about photo-ops and politics not growing the state economy and creating jobs. START-UP NY also reinforces Albany’s pay-to-play culture while failing to address the fundamental problems in our economy like over-taxation, crushing regulations and trial-lawyer friendly tort laws.”

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