Keeping Tabs on the BCIDAPosted: November 1, 2014
At the September meeting of the Broome County Industrial Development Agency the board made some “radical” changes to their uniform tax exemption policy. The board removed the Broome County sales tax and mortgage recording tax, which costs the residents of Broome County over $2.5 according to board member (and Chief of Staff to Tom Libous) Mr. Robert Nielson. The board cited the low Broome County sales tax revenues during the first half of 2014 as the reason for the change. Approving of the measure Broome County Executive Debbie Preston remarked how in the past Broome County “could give this [exemption] out to companies because things were good.” Now, however, the situation has changed: it’s not just poor people being squeezed, but services wealthier persons use! Preston later pointed out that these changes would not diminish the BCIDA’s effectiveness. “If a business is going to come into Broome County,” she said matter-of-factly, “they are going to do it anyways.”
Removing these tax breaks from the standard exemption and Preston’s comments reverse the BCIDA’s longtime stances. As The People’s Press has documented, the BCIDA has provided tens of millions of dollars in the last five years alone to big companies. While most of that comes in the form of breaks in property taxes that hurt our schools and localities, county sales tax and mortgage recording are windfalls for these large companies. At the same time that Executive Preston was cutting down on “welfare cheats,” attempting to de-unionize BC Transit, and privatizing Willow Point, she willingly gave tax payer dollars to private companies.
Another about face is the rationale for these tax breaks. Time and again these massive tax breaks have been justified by board members and elected officials of all parties. “If this company does not receive this really big tax break,” they say, “then they will choose to spend their money somewhere else. They will not come here. Without this tax break, this company will not move here and create jobs.” Preston echoed the opinion of The People’s Press when she noted that the tax breaks (for county sales and mortgage recording tax) were really unnecessary: companies that (re)locate to Broome “were going [to come] anyways.” If the companies that move to Broome were coming regardless of the tax breaks doled out by the BCIDA, then why are they still giving out tax breaks? Even the Broome County Executive thinks this is the case, it’s just that she would rather give out tax breaks to companies that don’t need them than make sure poor families have enough food to eat, have proper housing, or feel welcomed in our community. At least that’s what her actions suggest. These remarks make clear where Executive Preston’s, and the rest of the county government’s priorities lie: handing out cash to big businesses at the expense of taxpayers and on the backs of the poor!
The BCIDA board voted to make the board even less representative to the people by banning elected officials from serving on the board. It’s “ok” though for someone like Senator Tom Libous’ Chief of Staff to serve on the board!
Before the meeting commenced Per Stromhaug a Vice- President at Binghamton University gave a presentation about START UP New York and updated the board on the Southern Tier High Tech Incubator’s progress (I call it the SHiTI for short). He remarked that businesses love to work with the University because students are a wonderful source of CHEAP LABOR! It’s nice to know that technology development hasn’t disappeared from Binghamton; it’s just that companies aren’t paying workers to do it anymore. Why pay salary and benefits (and taxes for that matter) when students will pay for the privilege to be exploited!