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The Legislative Gazette Upstate Continued from page 4


These initiatives followed up on earlier actions to limit brownfield tax credits and to not renew the very effective municipal Environmental Restoration Program. While this is not a complete or fully


representative list, a cynic might be tempted to hypothesize that forces are at work in Albany to hamstring or terminate any economic development program, or even any general market forces, with a track record (or any chance) of boosting the economy or bolstering investment. To be fair, the government did not


just eliminate the very effective (but occasionally errant) Empire Zone program; it created the “Excelsior Program” to take its place. While I wish this program every success, I hope it rises above its dictionary definition of “fine wood shavings”--to which most of its predecessors have been reduced. When Governor Paterson’s Empire State


Development (ESDC) commissioner, Dennis Mullen, came to Binghamton a few months ago to explain this new program, he emphasized the fact that it was designed to enable ESDC to target those industries that would make the best use of financial incentives to create new jobs and investment. In other words, to provide the most “bang” for the buck. During the question period, I asked


Commissioner Mullen why the State was not willing to give cities, towns and villages the tools to further their own economic revitalization without centralized direction or taxpayer handouts from Albany. I pointed to two specific programs that have been ignored or marginalized by our political leaders in Albany: “Tax Increment Financing” (TIF) and the Section 485-e program under the General Municipal Law. The Commissioner said he was unfamiliar with the 485-e program, although he agreed with me regarding TIF--despite his failure to do anything concrete on TIF either before or after. TIF is an ingenious program that cities


in 48 other states have managed to use to great benefit in promoting public-private economic development partnerships. In large and small cities in every part of the country, TIF bonds have helped finance critical infrastructure development and


Dream Continued from page 4


prematurely to shine a light on major societal problems. Unlike the blatant severe problems which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. fought so hard to put a stop to, the civil rights violations happening against people with disabilities are primarily hidden from most people in our society. The hidden things done in secret are


what really can destroy us as a society. This is why transparency is absolutely vital.


Currently in New York State people


with developmental disabilities are called “consumers.” I have never felt that this was appropriate, and now I know why. According to the dictionary the definition of consumer is one who uses up, destroys, wastes, etc., one who devotes economic goods to the satisfaction of his present wants, and thus uses up the utilities in the goods so disposed of; This term is clearly derogatory in nature, and implies that the disabled use up, waste, and destroy services and resources. People like my son Jonathan that happen to have a disability, should be treated far better than they are, and they most certainly deserve equal rights. Currently, approximately 19,000 cases of alleged abuse of people with


January 25, 2011


blight elimination projects worth billions of dollars and have stimulated hundreds of billions of additional dollars in private investment--all without raising taxes or relying on state subsidies. Why can’t Binghamton, Elmira, Ithaca, and dozens of equally deserving municipalities in New York State not be trusted to do the same? What is TIF? What is it about New


York’s 1984 TIF law that discourages it from being used here? And most important, why can’t our Governor and Legislature get together and fix the TIF provisions of the Municipal Redevelopment Law, so that our local governments can use it to rejuvenate their (and the State’s) battered economy? TIF is a financing technique that


generates upfront dollars to pay for investments in infrastructure development, blight cleanup, and other public purposes that would not be advanced with private dollars alone, by the issuance of TIF bonds or TIF anticipation notes. The critical feature of TIF is the bonds (or notes) are purchased by private investors and are repaid, not by tax dollars in the municipal treasury, but by the increased or incremental property tax revenues that result from the new private investment that is stimulated by TIF-financed public improvements. (This is truly a boon for cash-strapped municipalities, like Binghamton, which are butting up against their Constitutional Debt limits.) The baseline (pre-TIF) tax revenues


in the TIF district (or redevelopment area) continue to go to the local taxing jurisdictions. It is only the incremental tax revenues that result directly from the expanded tax base or increased assessed valuation, that are set aside to repay the TIF debt. Only deserving projects will be funded via TIF. Not only must all aspects of the TIF proposal be approved by the legislative bodies of the involved local taxing jurisdictions, after full public review and comment, but only will fully defensible and economically justifiable projects will be supported by the investors who must purchase TIF bonds. If TIF projects don’t pan out and fail to realize their potential, it is the investors and/or the developer who are on the hook; not the initiating local government. What is the defect in New York’s


disabilities are reported to the abuse hotline annually in New York State. The vast majority of these reported cases of physical, sexual, and psychological abuse occur within facilities operated, certified or licensed by OMRDD, which is now called OPWDD. Most of these cases, which are alleged criminal acts, are never even forwarded to local law enforcement agencies or District Attorney’s offices for an investigation. Instead, the vast majority of these cases are only being internally investigated, and then are subsequently being “Unfounded” to be abuse. It is virtually impossible for a person with a disability to have equal rights or equal protection, as they are promised in our New York State Constitution, if they are the only group being denied the basic right to have a known alleged criminal act committed against them investigated by the police. It appears as if disabled people are currently not valuable enough to warrant the rights promised to all citizens. If we honestly look at this truth, and begin to value all individuals with disabilities properly, and make the necessary changes, our society can and will become far better. People with disabilities will then be much safer when they have the equal rights they deserve. Michael Carey Glenmont


26-year-old TIF law that has prevented it from being used--except for two small projects--in more than a quarter-century? Quite simply, it is the failure to authorize school districts to opt-in to a desirable TIF project and earmark incremental school property tax revenues toward repayment of TIF debt. Since school property taxes can sometimes account for as much as two-thirds of all local property taxes, especially in Upstate New York, withholding this portion of TIF- generated incremental tax revenues from the payback pool inevitably dampens the enthusiasm of potential investors to invest in TIF instruments. The legislative remedy is quite simple:


just add in the authority of school districts to voluntarily opt-in, following full public review and comment. The State Senate has passed such legislation three times in the past four years. (Thank you to Senator Catharine M. Young!) The State Assembly, for the first time last year, reported out of Committee the Schimminger bill (A. 2378-A), which would have done the same. (Thanks to Assemblymen Robin Schimminger and Sam Hoyt!) Our local legislators, including Senator Tom Libous and Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, have repeatedly supported effective TIF reform legislation. Why hasn’t such legislation happened? Could it be that Albany bureaucrats and politicians want to control the purse strings on economic development funding? Or are state politicians unwilling to trust local elected officials to spend economic development funds wisely? Or, is it simply that TIF is complicated and a difficult issue around which to mobilize voter support? The other “orphan” program is Section


485-e of the General Municipal Law. This program was simply overlooked when the Empire Zone Program was terminated (or “sunsetted” to use the popular euphemism). The 485-e program gave the local


governing boards of real property “constructed, installed or improved” in an area mapped as an “empire zone,” the authority to adopt a local law, after public hearing, to exempt such property from certain local property and ad valorem tax levies for a limited period of time. Similar to TIF, the tax exemption applies only to the increae in assessed


Medicaid Continued from page 5


Medicaid program, which Acquario says includes fully administering the program and covering more than $7 billion of the costs. In some counties, Medicaid spending approaches 100 percent of property tax revenues, said Acquario. Acquario’s short-term savings plan includes instituting a property tax cap and reforming Medicaid at the local and county levels by eliminating fraud and waste. Long term, Acquario argued


Page 13


value attributable to the construction, alteration, installation or improvement (this increase in value is considered the “base amount”). The tax exemption covers 100% of the base amount for the first seven years, and seventy-five percent, fifty percent, and twenty-five percent, respectively, for the next three years. The point is, the 485-e partial tax exemption cost the state nothing and was entirely discretionary on the part of local governments. Unfortunately, because it applies only within designated Empire Zones, the demise of that program also did away with the 485-e program. It is truly a case of throwing the “baby” out with the “bath water”! (I daresay there was not one legislator who voted for terminating the Empire Zone program who was aware—or cared—that the elimination of 485-e would be part of the collateral damage.) What is my most earnest wish for


2011, in terms of the economic well- being of our region and our state? I urge our new governor and our new and surviving legislators to resolve to do everything possible to improve our state’s economic climate — including encouraging business investment and local government initiative, especially where public tax dollars are not at risk. High on the 2011 agenda should be meaningful Tax Increment Financing reform (as embodied last year in S. 1716-A and A. 2378-A) and restoration of the 485-e program under the General Municipal Law. Hopefully, 2011 will also be the year that a newer and better Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement on hydrofracking is finalized and the moratorium on permits for horizontal shale gas drilling will be lifted — subject of course to appropriate precautions. While they’re at it, they might want to


take a hard look at repealing or scaling back some unhelpful and counter- productive laws such as the Taylor Law, the Triborough Amendment, Wick’s Law, and the Scaffold Law. But wait, that might be more


appropriate as a Christmas than as a New Year’s wish ...


By Kenneth S. Kamlett, an


environmental attorney with Hinman, Howard & Kattell, in Binghamton


that the county’s role in administering Medicaid programs should be turned over to the state. A slideshow by the Lewin Group, a health care policy research firm, was the final presentation, although the group was unrepresented due to travel problems. The slideshow focused on ways the


state could save money when purchasing pharmaceutical drugs, including buying generic drugs instead of brand-name ones when possible. “This was an awesome, enriching discussion,” said Hannon at the end of the conference.


Medicaid Hearing Schedule


By SIMON GARRON-CAINE Gazette staff writer Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Medicaid Redesign Team has announced dates for seven regional public hearings to solicit input and opinion and from health care professionals and members of the public. The hearings have been scheduled for: Manhattan, 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Jan.


27, Baruch College, The William and Anita Newman Vertical Campus, 1 Bernard Baruch Way, 55 Lexington Ave. and E. 24th St. Bronx, 3-6 p.m., Jan. 27, Bronx Community College, The Hall of Fame


Playhouse, 2155 University Ave. Long Island, 10 a.m.-1 p.m., Jan. 28, Hofstra University, The Student Center Theatre in the Mack Student Center, 1000 Fulton Ave., Hempstead. Hudson Valley, 10:30 a.m-1:30 p.m.,


Feb. 2, SUNY New Paltz, Lecture Center Room 100, 1 Hawk Drive, New Paltz. North country, 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.,


Feb. 3, Adirondack Community College 640 Bay Road, Main Theatre, Science


and Humanities Building, Queensbury. Public hearing in Buffalo and Rochester were conducted last week.


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