April 23, 2013
Ads Designed to Tout the State’s Business Climate Stretch the Truth
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: David Laska
Good morning! We thought you’d enjoy this great article from Bill Hammond at the New York Daily News.
Have you seen those ads bragging about how New York is “open for business?” Right – who hasn’t? Well they’re not telling you the truth. New York is still the most taxed, least business-friendly state in America. So why is Andrew Cuomo spending taxpayer money on ads that say the exact opposite? Read on for more:
Cuomo sells New York, and himself
Ads designed to tout the state’s business climate stretch the truth and boost the governor
By Bill Hammond
The New York Daily News
April 23, 2013
Gov. Cuomo’s nose must grow a little longer every time the state’s latest commercial message hits the airwaves – which is quite a lot recently.
“Welcome to the new New York State,” the voiceover intones, “where cutting taxes for families and businesses is our business.”
The spot, which is supposed to spark business investment, goes on to declare that Empire State companies have saved more than $2 billion through “reduced taxes and lowered costs.”
That middle-class tax rates have been cut “to the lowest rate in 60 years.”
That the state is creating “tax-free zones for business startups.”
And that the economy has “created tens of thousands of new businesses.”
None of these cherry-picked factual statements is false, exactly. But the overall message distorts economic reality badly enough to make Don Draper of “Mad Men” blush.
In fact, New York’s business tax climate ranks dead last among the 50 states, according to the latest analysis from the Tax Foundation.
In fact, a lot of the tax savings for business took the form of breaks targeted to a lucky few, which simply shift the burden to other taxpayers.
In fact, the middle-class tax rate cuts touted in the commercial resulted in token savings – worth maybe a few hundred dollars for most families.
In fact – regardless of how many businesses started up – the state’s job creation rate is even more sluggish than that of the country as a whole.
The inconvenient truth is that Cuomo’s latest budget makes the situation worse, not better. It modestly reduces some business taxes and calls for sending $350 “rebate” checks to taxpayers with young children shortly before next year’s election.
At the same time, however, Cuomo chose to prolong tax surcharges on utilities and high-income individuals that were supposed to expire – resulting in net tax hikes worth $4 billion over the next four years.
That didn’t stop the state Democratic Party – under Cuomo’s control – from dubbing the final product a “no new taxes” budget.
That kind of spin is bad enough coming from a political party. But when the same misleading message is echoed by the Empire State Development Corp. – the government agency behind the state’s “New New York” ads – it adds insult to injury.
Officials could not immediately say how much of the state’s $50 million annual marketing budget is being spent to sell New York as a nirvana for business. What they did say is that roughly half the ads are airing on stations within the state’s borders.
Which means, in effect, that Cuomo is snowing New Yorkers with their own tax dollars.
As for the people Cuomo is supposedly trying to persuade – actual business investors – they’re not buying the message.
“Everywhere I go, people want to know, ‘Why are they running those false ads?’ ” says Brian Sampson of the business advocacy group Unshackle Upstate.
Sampson gives Cuomo credit for keeping state spending in line with inflation, capping property taxes and reducing the cost of workers’ compensation – but says the state’s business climate remains far from competitive.
Business investors “want to make money, and you’re not going to do it in the place that has the worst business tax climate in the country.”
“Repairing the state’s reputation is necessary,” said Mike Durant, state director for the National Federation of Independent Business. “But by themselves (the ads) are meaningless unless we change the climate.”
Of course, potential investors represent a tiny percentage of the audience for this ad. The vast majority are average viewers who tuned in for “Jeopardy” or “60 Minutes.” In between pitches for skin creams and erectile dysfunction pills, they see a slickly produced commercial portraying New York State as a sunny place full of economic vitality – distracting them, if just for a moment, from the not-so-rosy economic reality, especially upstate.
By law, Cuomo’s name and face cannot appear in taxpayer-funded commercials. But viewers across the state – and across the country – are hearing the message that New York is cutting taxes and bouncing back, which cannot help but boost the political fortunes of its governor.
Your tax dollars at work, ladies and gentlemen