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NEW YORK
Cuomo to meet with Trump about tax law's impact on New York

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will meet with President Donald Trump Tuesday to discuss the impact of the cap on state and local tax deductions — a provision in the 2017 federal tax law that Cuomo argues has led to a $2.3 billion reduction in the state's personal income tax receipts. 

Cuomo announced the meeting with Trump during a press conference in Albany Monday. The meeting, which will be held at the White House, is scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday. 

The $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions has been the target of much criticism from Cuomo. Before the tax law was signed by Trump in December 2017, there was no limit on deducting state and local taxes. Placing a cap on these deductions provided a method for funding key components of the tax law, including income tax reductions and a lower corporate tax rate. 

Cuomo believes the federal tax law punished high-tax states that tend to be more Democratic. He claimed the measure created a better tax structure in traditional Republican states. 

"There is no more vital long-term issue for the state from a financial point of view than SALT," Cuomo said. 

Cuomo revealed that he requested the meeting last week. The White House responded and the meeting was scheduled for Tuesday. 

Trump has expressed interest in changes to the cap on state and local tax deductions. Last week, he told reporters at the White House that he is "open" to altering the cap. 

However, Senate Republicans aren't supportive of changing the limits imposed on state and local tax deductions. A spokesman for Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley said last week that the issue wouldn't be revisited. 

Any changes to the cap would be difficult to achieve without opening up the rest of the tax law and making other adjustments. That's unlikely to happen now that Democrats control the House of Representatives. At the time of the tax law's adoption, Republicans were in the majority. 

Despite the long odds, Cuomo plans to take his message to Trump. He also hopes to meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the coming weeks. 

The limit on state and local tax deductions highlights another sore spot for Cuomo: New York's status as a donor state. A report authored by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found New York sent $24.1 billion more in tax payments than it received in federal funding. 

Cuomo also noted that nine other states pay more in federal taxes than they receive in funding from Washington. 

"How do you possibly justify that in terms of equity, fairness, justice on any level?" Cuomo said. "How is this fair?" 

The last Cuomo-Trump meeting occurred in November. The governor met with the president to discuss the Gateway Tunnel project. 


Eye_on_ny
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Upstate NY lawmakers to Amazon: Locate HQ2 between Rochester, Syracuse

With Amazon reportedly reconsidering its decision to open a second headquarters in New York City, a group of upstate New York legislators want the company to bring the project north to central New York or the Finger Lakes region. 

The Republican lawmakers, including state Sens. Bob Antonacci and Pam Helming, Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb and Assemblymen Will Barclay, Gary Finch and Brian Manktelow, are urging Amazon to open its second headquarters, dubbed "HQ2", between Rochester and Syracuse. 

The pitch comes as Amazon's proposed second headquarters in Queens faces opposition from some state and local officials. The Washington Post reported on Friday that Amazon is reconsidering and could move the headquarters to another state. 

Amazon plans to open its headquarters in Long Island City and hire at least 25,000 workers. Between the state and New York City governments, up to $3 billion in incentives would be awarded to the project. The funds include a state grant and tax credits linked to job creation goals. 

But there has been opposition to the project due to the level of public investment — critics have labeled it "corporate welfare" — and the potential impact on neighborhoods in Queens. There are concerns it may adversely impact the housing market and lead to gentrification. 

While the project may face opposition in New York City, the upstate contingent told Amazon that it's welcome to place its new headquarters in the Rochester-Syracuse corridor. 

"We would be willing to work with them to help boost economic and job growth in our region," said Antonacci, R-Onondaga, who sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos urging him to consider the move. 

Rochester and Syracuse were part of proposals submitted during Amazon's HQ2 selection process. Rochester and Buffalo partnered to submit a proposal, while central New York created its own pitch. However, no upstate sites were included in the company's list of finalists. 

Last fall, Amazon selected New York City and Northern Virginia to host HQ2 sites. 

Now that the New York City proposal may be in jeopardy, upstate legislators highlighted the region's assets. With several colleges and universities nearby, Amazon would have access to a "rich pool of potential candidates" for its new campus, according to the lawmakers. 

The group of legislators also noted that there's access to transportation hubs — and Rochester and Syracuse have airports — and there are shovel-ready sites in the region.

"Our unmatched quality of life and beautiful environment draw visitors from across the world and would certainly help Amazon in their efforts to attract top talent," Helming, R-Canandaigua, said. 

For now, it seems the state's best chance of landing HQ2 is in Queens. Despite opposition from some local officials, the project is supported by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. 

Cuomo, who criticized state Senate Democrats for opposing the project, said last week that it's the largest economic development transaction in the state's history. He acknowledged that Amazon would receive $3 billion in incentives, but explained the company will generate a projected $27 billion in tax revenue over a 25-year period. 

If Amazon were to choose another state for HQ2, Cuomo said it would be a "tremendous loss." 

The upstate delegation hopes that while it may be a loss for New York City, it would be a gain for the Rochester-Syracuse region. 

"Amazon.com in upstate New York would be transformative," Barclay, R-Pulaski, said. 

Antonacci's letter to Bezos

Kevin Rivoli, The Citizen 

Eric Haynes and his dog, Ciara, at his home in Auburn.


Local
PUBLIC SAFETY
Cayuga County fire officials work to move forward amid EMO resignations

Following resignations that left the Cayuga County Emergency Management Office in January short-staffed, fire chiefs from departments throughout the county met Monday to discuss a way forward while the office is rebuilt.

Both newly appointed Director W. Douglas Whittaker and longtime Deputy Director Maureen Conley of the EMO office resigned suddenly at the end of January, leaving the department with just one full-time employee, Deputy Director Niel Rivenburgh, and 15 part-time employees.

In a resignation letter, Whittaker offered no reason for leaving after less than a month in office. Conley's letter said she could "no longer be a part of what's happening in this County, or more specifically in the Office of Emergency Services."

Citing personnel matters, county officials have declined to discuss the resignations.

At a meeting of the Cayuga County Fire Advisory Board, multiple fire chiefs met with both the board and several county legislators to discuss how to maintain services in the short-term and what shape the EMO should take long-term.

To fill coverage gaps following the resignations, Cayuga County Administrator J. Justin Woods said he had spoken with staff at both Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office and the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services about securing support to effectively shore up the EMO.

While working with the state to determine what shape help may come in, Woods acknowledged the concerns raised by the chiefs and asked for their help moving forward.

"This is a challenge and it requires all hands on deck to resolve it," Woods said.

Some of the concerns raised by the chiefs included the inability of the EMO to develop or provide a complete listing of specialized equipment in the county, breakdowns in communication between the county and fire departments, and problems in equipment procurement, among others.

Several chiefs also expressed disappointment with county legislators and officials, questioning if they had been truly paying attention to problems within the EMO.

"We all believe the same beliefs as to how this county is letting us down," Scipio Car Three Fire Chief Tim Weir said.

After listening to the concerns, Legislators Andrew Dennison, R-Ira and Chris Petrus, R-Brutus, said it would be critical for fire personnel to be involved in deciding what shape the office takes in the long term.

"We're listening, we're going to do something about it," Petrus said.

Multiple fire chiefs said Monday they would bring their concerns to the next full Legislature meeting scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Feb. 26.


Local
top story
AUBURN
Auburn company takes city to court over denied project

AUBURN — An Auburn business is legally challenging the city's denial of a variance request to construct a pole barn on a vacant lot.

In October, when Bouley Enterprises Inc. requested the variance from the Auburn Zoning Board of Appeals to erect the barn at 20 Canoga St., the board rejected the request for multiple reasons.

Meeting minutes say board members were concerned about an increase of traffic, the barn not fitting in with the rest of the residentially zoned neighborhood and the possibility of the business expanding in the future if a variance was granted. 

Additionally, the ZBA denied the request because of a positive declaration under a State Environmental Quality Review, meaning preparation for environmental impact would be needed if the barn were to be built. 

Bouley was seeking the variance because it has a purchase offer on the property from Edward J. Rizzo, who would build the pole barn to use for the landscaping and masonry equipment storage. Bouley, which has owned the site since 2006, said it has tried unsuccessfully to market the property for residential use.

Although two members of the seven-strong ZBA were absent from the October meeting, the five who did attend all voted to deny the variance.

In a petition filed Friday with state Supreme Court in Cayuga County, Bouley Enterprises's attorney wrote that it was "patently improper" of the board to cite the hypothetical future of the business possibly expanding as a reason for variance denial. 

Typically, a variance is needed to site buildings for uses that don't match the specified zoning use for a certain area. Bouley's attorney argued that a business had previously existed at the site, and that therefore, the barn fitting in with the rest of the neighborhood should be of no concern. 

The previous business's floor slab remains on the otherwise vacant property, with garbage scattered over it. According to documents filed with the application for the variance, the site had once been the home of plastics manufacturing company. An engineer's report from 1993 said the site at one point was on a list of inactive hazardous waste sites but had later been delisted.

Although Bouley's legal petition has been filed, the city has not been served yet with legal papers yet and declined to comment on the matter, assistant corporation counsel Nate Garland said Monday.