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Saving New York's Green (in more ways than one)

January 17, 2008

New York, NY - Governor Spitzer will have to find almost $4 billion in budget cuts this year, and a report being released today says New Yorkers could save plenty if they fix some runaway tax incentive programs. The report, called "Wasted Green" looks at how state policies impact both the economy and the environment. Rob Moore with Environmental Advocates of New York says it finds the Empire State is losing revenue by giving tax breaks to companies for jobs like environmental cleanup that don't get completed.

"A lot of the state's programs are not getting the desired economic impact they were designed to get, and at the same time they are also contributing to environmental degradation. So, we end up wasting green in a lot of different ways."

Moore says what's particularly troubling is that some of the programs target money to smaller environmental cleanup efforts in relatively well-to-do areas, instead of targeting the most-polluted sites in economically troubled areas like upstate, where the help is needed most.

Moore says the tax credits for the state's "brownfields" cleanup program need to be fixed so that the benefits go to more and dirtier sites instead of to developers.

"We're realizing that the tax incentives are not spurring cleanup in the areas that most need it, and they're not economically sustainable. So right now, there are 54 sites that have currently qualified for the tax incentives in New York state and the tax incentives are estimated to be as high as one billion dollars in lost revenues."

The "Wasted Green" report also found similar problems with the way tax incentives are doled out under New York's Empire Zones program. Moore says while the program's original goals to spur economic development are laudable, the Empire Zones have become a corporate welfare source for some of the state's worst polluters.

Michael Clifford/John Robinson, Public News Service - NY