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Call for tax-free zones around SUNY campuses

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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- High-tech businesses from other states and abroad that move to college campuses or nearby in New York would operate completely tax-free for 10 years under a proposal released Wednesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, including no income tax for entrepreneurs and workers.

The proposal would waive all business and property taxes as well as income taxes for companies bringing in new business. New York is one of the nation's highest-taxed states and the plan would serve as a way to create jobs in a long-stagnant upstate economy. The businesses would have to locate on a campus of a public or private university or adjacent properties being identified for the proposed program.

The tax-free benefits would last five to 10 years, depending on the deal struck with companies, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said. He said he will insist that current New Yorkers benefit from the new jobs and there would be serious "claw back" provisions and penalties for companies that fail to meet promises of jobs and development.

Silver says that project has been discussed for weeks and he expects it to be adopted by the Legislature before the end of its session June 20.

Cuomo wouldn't answer questions after his presentation, held at the nanoscience college of the state University of New York in a space where President Barack Obama was a cheerleader one year ago for states seeking a place in the competitive high-technology economy.

The program would be open to companies new to New York that will partner with a college. The companies would have to be working in an area that is compatible with the academics of the college.

Cuomo said the program is aimed at ending the perception and the reality that New York is a high-tax state. His spokesman didn't immediately respond when asked whether existing employers who won't benefit from the tax break were advised of the program.

Silver said the program would bring in new jobs and new businesses, so technically there would be no cost to the state. He said the program is also aimed at bringing in high-tech companies.

"It's not forever. We're talking about some five-year benefits, some 10-year benefits," Silver said. "Eventually they are going to become fully taxpaying citizens." He said the tax-free benefit would only be for employers and operations on the state-designated site.

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