Accountable USA - New York

New York is the tale of two economies, Upstate and New York City, but both are characterized by a subsidy system run by the state's dysfunctional network of Industrial Development Agencies (IDAs), with their powers to bundle large state and local tax breaks, and a centralized quasi-public agency – the Empire State Development Corporation, which awards lavish subsidies with little accountability. The Fiscal Policy Institute estimates that the combined state and local business tax expenditures in New York total about $10 billion annually. In early 2019, a bill was introduced to amend the state finance law by enacting "Interstate Compact Agreement Prohibiting Company-Specific Subsidies", which would take New York out of the running in this race to the bottom.

 

Upstate has long struggled economically; indeed, the Fiscal Policy Institute has documented, if treated as a separate state, Upstate New York’s economic performance in recent decades would rank very close to the very bottom, along with states such as Mississippi. In the early 2010s, the Cuomo Administration launched two major economic development programs aimed at spurring upstate economic growth: 1) Buffalo Billion, which allocated $1 billion for companies involved in clean energy, manufacturing, and biomedical research to expand or relocate to Buffalo and 2) STARTUP-NY, which seeks to entice businesses to relocate to tax-free zones created in partnership with colleges and other institutions. Both are widely considered to be massive failures.

 

New York City has a long history of enacting controversial programs as well as being “blackmailed” by high-profile companies threatening to relocate to neighboring New Jersey or Connecticut and professional sports teams demanding large amounts of public financing for new stadiums. Although Mayor Bill de Blasio has shut down some outrageous deals, the state legislature has for several years gridlocked on reforming the other most problematic program, the highly decentralized IDA system, under which local boards can hand out discretionary property tax abatements and sales tax exemptions. In 2019, a highly-publicized $2.8 million subsidy deal with Amazon to build part of its second headquarters, or “HQ2, in Queens fell apart under intense opposition. 

 

Click on the links below for the latest data on New York:

 

    Corporate Misconduct in New York:  

            Results page for New York in Violation Tracker

    Subsidy Deals in New York:

            Results page for New York in Subsidy Tracker 

    Tax Revenue Lost by New York governments to Subsidy Programs:

            Results page for New York in Tax-Break Tracker (available soon)

    Mega-Deals in New York:

            Spreadsheet of subsidy deals over $50 million (can be filtered by state)

    Institutional Schematic for Enforcing Disclosure in New York:

            New York GASB-77 Roadmap

    Exemplary Journalism on Economic Development Incentives in New York:

            (available soon)

 

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Key Subsidy Programs

Subsidy Program Recent Annual
Cost
Online Recipient
Disclosure
Recipient Disclosure
Score
Job-Creation/
Job-Quality Score**
Monitoring/
Enforcement Score***

BROWNFIELDS CLEANUP/REDEVELOPMENT

The program encourages cleanup and development of brownfield sites across the State to revitalize economically blighted communities. Credits are awarded to be used against Personal Income, Corporate Franchise, Insurance, and Corporate taxes.

$100 million in total value of subsidy awards (2015)

$130 million reduction in state tax revenue (2018)
23/100
10/100
30/100

FILM AND COMMERCIAL PRODUCTION CREDIT

The program is designed to increase the presence and overall positive impact of the film production and post-production industry on the State’s economy. Credits are awarded to be used against Personal Income and Corporate Franchise Taxes.

$758 million in total value of subsidy awards (2018)

$682 million reduction in state tax revenue (2018)
0/100
10/100
38/100

QUALIFIED EMPIRE ZONES ENTERPRISE (QEZE)

The program is designed to created jobs and prevent loss of employment in the Empire Zone and to enhance economic climate in EZ areas. Credits are awarded to be used against Personal Income, Sales and Use, Corporate Franchise, Bank and Insurance, and Corporate Taxes.

$115 million reduction in state tax revenue (2018)
41/100
25/100
35/100

INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT AGENCIES (IDAs)

The program is designed to foster economic development in specific localities through sales tax exemption on purchases.

$762 million in total value of subsidy awards (2017)

$107 million reduction in state tax revenue (2018)
66/100
25/100
35/100

EXCELSIOR BUSINESS PROGRAM (formerly START-UP NY)

The program is designed to encourage new business creation around colleges, universities, and correctional facilities by designating these areas as tax-free. Taxes are reduced or eliminated through refundable credit, refund of taxes paid, and tax exemptions. 

$84 million in total value of subsidy awards (2015)

$180 million reduction in state tax revenue (2018)
60/100
NA - program has not started before the publication of our transparency study
NA - program has not started before the publication of our transparency study

* The score is derived from the Good Jobs First report Show Us the Subsidized Jobs (January 2014).

** The score is derived from the Good Jobs First report Money for Something (December 2011).

*** The score is derived from the Good Jobs First report Money-Back Guarantees for Taxpayers (January 2012).

Major Subsidy Deals

GlobalFoundries ($349 million in 2015)

view in Subsidy Tracker

Before the Empire Zones program was shut down in 2010, GlobalFoundries – a semiconductor manufacturing company – managed to get its foot in the door when it bought up the chip plants from Advanced Micro Devices and inherited its $1.4 billion subsidy deal via transfer, including $665 million in cash. As of 2015, GlobalFoundries has collected from the state $586 million in tax credits and rebates mainly for building chip plants in Malta, Saratoga County.

SolarCity ($750 million in 2014)

view in Subsidy Tracker

For the capstone project of the Buffalo Billion, $750 million subsidy was awarded to SolarCity, a solar panel manufacturing firm chaired by billionaire Elon Musk. Since then, the project has been embroiled in one scandal after another. An audit is underway to determine whether the 730 jobs created (> $1 million per job) is worth the investment.  

FreshDirect  ($172 million in 2013)

view in Subsidy Tracker

After threatening to relocate its online grocery delivery business to New Jersey, FreshDirect sought and was approved to receive over $81 million in city subsidies from the New York City Industrial Development Agency to expand its facility in the South Bronx. The project was briefly stalled by an environmental lawsuit before breaking ground in 2014.  The project was approved another $9 million grant and $1 million loan from Empire State Development. The firm is also eligible to receive over $18 million in Excelsior tax credits through New York State.

Walmart in New York

  • At least 5 Wal-Mart locations have received subsidies worth about $52 million in New York.
  • At least 8 Wal-Mart locations in New York have challenged their property tax assessment, recouping about $766,000.
  • Many Wal-Mart workers are ineligible for health coverage from their employer or choose not to purchase what is available, because it is too expensive or too limited in scope. These workers often turn to taxpayer-funded health programs such as Medicaid. New York is among those states that have not disclosed data on the employers with the most workers or their dependents enrolled in such programs.

 

 For more information, see the New York page of Wal-Mart Subsidy Watch.