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January 30, 2002

Senate seeks $520 million for biotech, more Empire Zones

The Senate Majority will seek to create a $520 million biotechnology program and to locate tax-free Empire Zones in every county of the state as its priorities in this year's budget negotiations.

Those are among the initiatives outlined in the Senate Finance Committee's Staff Analysis of the SFY 2002-03 Executive Budget, released this week by Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno and Finance Committee Chairman Ronald B. Stafford.

The Senate Majority's top priority is the Gen*NY*sis (Generating Employment through New York Science) program introduced in 2001, according to the report. The proposal builds on similar initiatives Governor Pataki included in his Executive Budget for the coming year. Speaker Silver and the Assembly Majority have also advanced a major university/business technology initiative calling for Centers of Excellence.

"This program focuses $520 million in State resources over a five year period to transform New York State into the premier location for life sciences research and technology development," the report says. The plan includes $340 million for construction of research facilities at eight Gen*NY*sis Centers of Excellence that would promote research and development. New funds would also be available to increase the number of New York-based researchers who could qualify for federal research grants, and create a new economic development program for emerging biotechnology businesses.

The Senate Majority plan also calls for creation of eight Gen*NY*sis Zones, which would apply the state's existing Empire Zone tax-free status to areas near existing biotechnology clusters.

The program would be supported by revenues the state expects from new casinos and video lottery terminals.

The report said the Senate Majority will seek expansion of the Empire Zone program to every county in the state. Some 14 counties now have no zone. The program allows businesses to locate or expand operations virtually tax-free, with credits to offset state corporate income and sales taxes, local property taxes, and part of the state income tax from employee wages and salaries.

The Senate Finance staff report lists $68 million in new fee proposals included in the Governor's budget. More than $18 million would come from a surcharge on fees paid by hazardous waste generators, mostly manufacturers and utilities. The proposed budget includes another $3.3 million in new fees on pesticides and petroleum bulk storage.

The Senate Majority also released a report on the economic impact of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. It concluded that statewide employment will be 78,000 lower during 2002 than it would have been without the attacks. The state will lose an estimated $6 billion in revenue in the current and coming fiscal years as a result, it said.