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ISSUE IN BRIEF: Empire Zone Reform

Staff Contact: Ken Pokalsky

The Empire Zone program is one of the most significant state-level incentive packages available nationwide, and has been successfully used to create and save thousands of jobs and promote major new investments to New York State. At the same time, there is considerable interest in program "reform."

The FY 2006 Executive Budget includes proposals that would reduce benefits for some existing "qualified empire zone enterprises" (QEZEs); place new limits on all prospective QEZEs; modify zone designation criteria; require more extensive Empire Zone development plans; and enhance annual reporting requirements for zones. The Governor is also proposing two new zone categories, "flex acreage zones," which would be designated by the state to support significant development projects, and agribusiness zones, which would support the agricultural production and processing activities. The budget would also extend the program five years to March 31, 2010.

The Assembly has introduced legislation (A.6) that would re-shape existing zones and change how future zone acreage is designated; create a new, three person panel to oversee the Empire Zones program; require adoption of new regulations governing the Empire Zones program; adopt more stringent provisions for disqualifying QEZEs that fail to meet job criteria; and adopt new, annual reporting requirements.

Our Priorities - The Business Council sees Empire Zones as a major component of the state's economic development program. We also represent many businesses that participate in the Zones program, and many local business organizations with an interest in how the Zones program is administered. Based on considerable input from our membership, The Business Council's priorities regarding Empire Zone reform include the following: