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Our editorial: Give public answers on Start-Up NY

Our editorial: Give public answers on Start-Up NY

Delay in releasing report raises suspicions about program's effectiveness.
Our editorial: Give public answers on Start-Up NY
Governor Andrew Cuomo deliver his State of the State and budget addresses at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany on Wednesday, January 21, 2015.
Photographer: Patrick Dodson

Ask a group of little kids who broke the window, and chances are you'll be met with absolute silence.

The same experiment works with government officials. No one wants to admit when they've screwed up.

So it's no surprise that Empire State Development hasn't released the latest job creation figures for New York's "Start-Up NY" program — a fledgling state economic development project that sets up tax-free zones around college campuses as an incentive for companies to create jobs in association with the schools.

Companies pay no income tax, business tax, corporate tax, state or local taxes, sales tax, property tax or franchise fees for 10 years in exchange for creating jobs.

In announcing the program in October 2013, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called it a "game-changing initiative." But so far, state taxpayers appear to be the ones being played.

New Yorker taxpayers have invested more than $53 million in marketing and advertising in the program, according to the Associated Press. And what have we gotten for that?

The governor said in March Start-Up NY had attracted 172 companies pledging to create more than 4,000 jobs in the next five years. But that would be a huge leap. In its first full year of operation in 2014, the program created just $1.7 million in private investment, along with a paltry 76 jobs.

The job creation report for 2015 was due out on April 1. Now 67 days late, the only thing New Yorkers are hearing from the Empire State Development is the sound of a broken window, followed by silence.

The nothingness coming from Albany raises legitimate suspicions about what the numbers will show once they are released.

The program been criticized as a taxpayer-funded promotional vehicle for Gov. Cuomo's political aspirations. If the report had anything positive to say, he’d be saying it, not delaying it.

So who cares if some state report is a couple of months late anyway? Well, we all should.

The longer the state continues to fund this program without demonstrating its effectiveness, the more of our taxpayer money that continues to pour down the rabbit hole — money that could be spent on legitimate job-producing programs, other needs such as infrastructure repair and education, or, dare we say it, lowering taxes.

If the program is showing signs of progress, then state officials could make a case for continuing to fund it, perhaps with some tweaking of the investment to meet the lower expectations. But if it's failing miserably, as it appears to be doing, the state should pull the plug as soon as possible, before even more taxpayer money is wasted on it.

Either way, we're all paying for this program. We have a right to know how well it's performing. Or how poorly.

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