ALBANY - Businesses receiving tax breaks through the state's controversial Start-Up NY program created 757 jobs last year, according to a state report released Monday.
The new jobs pushed the total created to 1,135 in the first three years of the oft-criticized program, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo once said would "supercharge our efforts to grow our economy."
The annual report from Empire State Development, the state's economic-development branch, tracks new hires by companies in the Start-Up program, which wipes out 10 years of income, property and sales tax for new or relocating businesses that set up shop in pre-determined zones.
The program has been a frequent target of criticism from state lawmakers and budget watchdogs who have questioned its effectiveness, as well as a $53 million advertising campaign that accompanied Start-Up's launch.
But Cuomo's administration has continued to stand behind the program, though the governor has been seeking to re-brand it.
"With START-UP NY, we are taking advantage of some of New York’s greatest assets – our world-class higher education system and human capital – to generate 21st century economic opportunities for all New Yorkers,"
Empire State Development CEO Howard Zemsky wrote in a letter introducing the report. Zemsky is Cuomo's top economic-development adviser.
There are more than 651 Start-Up zones across the state, of which 546 are at SUNY or CUNY colleges or universities.
A total of 212 businesses are currently accepted into the Start-Up program, of which 156 have already located in Start-Up zones -- meaning they can begin collecting the tax benefits.
The businesses are not evenly spread across the state: 50 of them are in the Buffalo area, with another 25 in the Albany area and 23 in New York City.
he Finger Lakes region -- Rochester and the surrounding area -- and the Southern Tier have 11 Start-Up businesses each, while the Mid- and Lower Hudson Valley has just six.
Statewide, the businesses have pledged to provide 4,403 jobs over the next five years, according to the report.
That number is little changed from last year's Start-Up report, which promised 4,140 jobs over five years -- a net change of just 263 jobs.
In a blog post, Kenneth Girardin of the Empire Center, a fiscally conservative think tank, pointed to the stagnant five-year numbers as evidence of the program's ineffectiveness.
"While some lawmakers have leveled criticism toward ESD because of the funds spent promoting START-UP, the real problem it poses is the distraction it causes from conversation about the actual culprits behind New York’s difficult business climate," Girardin wrote.
Cuomo, meanwhile, proposed re-branding Start-Up NY, including a measure in his state budget proposal to rename it the "Excelsior Business Program."
Budget negotiations continue on, despite the state's fiscal year beginning Saturday. On Monday, state lawmakers were due to approve an extension of the state's budget through May.
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