PRIORITY ISSUE: Empire Zone Reform

As part of the final budget agreement (see Part A, Section 5 of S.4271/A.7298), the Empire Zone program was extended through 2015, and additional zones will be added in eleven counties currently without zones, and to the Chinatown section of Manhattan. Generally, businesses certified as QEZEs prior to 4/1/05 will retain their current benefits. Businesses certified after that date will be subject to new designation criteria, and new criteria for calculating the real property tax benefit, and their benefits will extend for 10, rather than 15 years. All existing Empire Zones are required to be reconfigured so that zone acreage is designated in a limited number of contiguous areas. The law contains new and expanded accountability /reporting requirements for local zone boards and QEZEs. New categories of zone benefits were established for agricultural cooperatives and “regionally significant projects.”

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For more information, contact Ken Pokalsky via e-mail at ken.pokalsky@bcnys.org or phone at 518/465-7511.

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.

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: