Tax cuts for businesses and tax-free zones near college campuses will be the next step in reviving the state’s economy, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.

In his State of the State address, Cuomo proposed a two-year freeze on property taxes and announced plans to market tax-free zones for businesses internationally.

The tax-free zones program, called Start-Up NY, started Jan. 1, and participating businesses would not have to pay any income or business taxes for 10 years. The majority of the zones are upstate.

“There’s nothing like it in this country. It makes New York the least expensive place in the United States to locate a business,” Cuomo said in his speech.

The upstate economy is in particular need of help. New York ranks 21st in the country for private-sector job growth since November 2010, but the 50 counties outside the New York City area taken alone would rank last in the nation for job growth, according to the Empire Center for New York Policy.

Cuomo acknowledged that upstate continues to lag. He said that over the past 10 years, the nation’s economy grew at 9 percent, while upstate grew at half the rate.

But Cuomo said the economy is improving, citing job statistics that show job creation is up.

“We said we were going to change that and reverse it and we did and it’s already paying dividends,” Cuomo said. “And we want to do it again, and we want to start it with taxes.”

Cuomo proposed reducing the corporate tax rate from 7.1 percent to 6.5 percent in the 2016 tax year, it’s lowest level since 1968. For manufacturers, Cuomo proposed funding a 20 percent property-tax credit while reducing the corporate income-tax rate to zero for those located upstate.

The upstate area is considered outside the Metropolitan Transportation Authority region, which runs as far north as Dutchess County, state officials said.

He also proposed to accelerate the phase out of a energy assessment on business, which particularly hit upstate companies.

“I continue to be impressed with the governor’s commitment to upstate New York and economic development,” said Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, D-Irondequoit, who is also chairman of Monroe County’s Democratic Party.

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, a fellow Democrat who was introduced before Cuomo’s speech as one of the state’s new mayors, said in a statement that she too was pleased by Cuomo’s recognition of the state of upstate’s economy and his proposal to reduce the corporate tax for manufacturing sites.

She also cited his proposal for the NY Youth Works Program, which is designed to help city youth find jobs — a program she said is especially needed in Rochester, where “46 percent of youth live below the poverty line.”

Warren’s statement did say she was disappointed “that we were not among the cities specifically mentioned in Governor Cuomo’s address” and that it was a sign local leaders needed to do more with state leaders.

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, R-Canandaiagua, said Cuomo hasn’t been able to successfully turn around the state’s economy.

“I think it was long on platitudes,” Kolb said. “I think certainly when you talk the reality of people back, especially upstate, there’s a lot more we need to do before we’re open for business.”

Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks struck a conciliatory tone in her statement, saying she was awaiting more details: “Governor Cuomo should be applauded for his attention to job creation and property tax relief … Monroe County will continue to analyze and weigh the impact of all the Governor’s proposals as more details are available in the days to come.”

Cuomo said he would host a Global NY Summit on World Trade and Investment to reach foreign investors and hopefully bring them to New York. He will also create an international marketing program to promote the Start-Up NY program.

©2014, Democrat and Chronicle

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