by

Governor Cuomo Seeks to Turn SUNY Campuses Into Tax-Free Zones

The 64 campuses of the State University of New York system would become tax-free zones under an economic-development plan announced on Wednesday by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. According to the governor’s office, the “Tax Free NY” program would seek to lure technology companies and other businesses that could make use of the intellectual capital produced by SUNY’s colleges and universities.

In a statement released by Governor Cuomo’s office, Nancy L. Zimpher, chancellor of SUNY, said, “The governor has said many times that SUNY is the economic engine for New York, and these new tax-free zones will further our campuses’ ability to innovate, create jobs, and attract new companies through public-private partnerships.”

Under the plan, the companies would pay no sales, property, or business taxes for a decade, and employees would pay no income taxes. The venture seeks to replicate the economic success of SUNY’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, which Mr. Cuomo said had attracted billions of dollars of investment to Albany, N.Y.

The tax-free areas would include all SUNY campuses outside of New York City and north of Westchester County, and up to 200,000 square feet adjoining the campuses, three million square feet for designated private colleges, and 20 state-owned properties.

In making the announcement at the soon-to-be-completed NanoFabX building on the Albany campus, Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, was joined Sen. Dean G. Skelos, the Senate Republican Conference leader; Sen. Jeffrey A. Klein, the Independent Democratic Conference leader; and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the Albany Times-Union reported. A press aide to Mr. Cuomo cautioned that the presence of the lawmakers did not mean they were endorsing the plan, although all three men spoke favorably of the prospect of more jobs for New Yorkers.

Richard Overmoyer is executive director of the University Economic Development Association, a national group that encourages university-based economic development. As a past deputy secretary for technology innovation at the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, Mr. Overmoyer helped create the Keystone Innovation Zone Tax-Credit Program, which assists start-up companies in the state.

He cautioned that the broadness of Mr. Cuomo’s proposal, as presented, raised many questions about its viability.

“The challenge is how you draw those maps,” Mr. Overmoyer said. In Pennsylvania, “we purposely did it in a way that limited that geographic range to no more than four square miles around the campus.”

“Some of the SUNY campuses are in rural settings,” he said. “Do you really want to encourage development on greenfield sites? That’s not going to help you.”

A bill containing the details of Governor Cuomo’s tax proposal will be introduced during the current legislative session, which is scheduled to end on June 21. Many details remain to be worked out, the governor’s office said.

Return to Top