Politics

Florida to New York: Our Business Climate Is Better Than Yours

As New York tries to lure Floridians up north, the Sunshine State's CFO wrote Gov. Andrew Cuomo to dispute New York's ad campaign claims.
by | July 22, 2014
Florida CFO Jeff Atwater, right, talking to a state lawmaker.
Florida CFO Jeff Atwater, right, talking to a state lawmaker. AP/Phil Coale
 

Florida’s chief financial officer blasted a New York ad campaign trying to woo new residents and businesses with 10-year tax free zones for advertising in the Sunshine State, which doesn’t ever tax corporate or personal income.

“It is perfectly understandable that you would want to stay in touch with so many former New Yorkers who have already discovered the allure of the Sunshine State and chosen to relocate to Florida,” the letter from CFO Jeff Atwater to Gov. Mario Cuomo said. “Thanks, in part to the wisdom of their decisions, Florida will soon surpass New York as the third largest state in the union.”

The snarky letter, sent on July 18, went on to list reasons why Florida has a much better business climate than New York. They include the fact that Florida ranks high as a good business state on lists compiled by more conservative-leaning organizations while New York is a cellar dweller. Additionally, the Sunshine State’s employment growth has been greater over the last year than the Empire State’s. (Florida’s unemployment rate, however, topped 11 percent after the recession while New York’s peaked at just under 9 percent).

Atwater accused the New York campaign of “glaring errors” in portraying New York as a business-friendly state but the CFO himself made a fairly elementary math mistake in the letter. He noted that Florida is poised to overtake New York in population while running a state on “nearly 80 percent less” the amount of money. Actually, Florida’s $77 billion budget is a little more than half New York’s total planned spending this year. Put another way, New York’s $140 billion budget is $63 billion more than Florida’s, an increase that represents 80 percent of Florida’s budget.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo took issue with the fact that New York's tax free zones are less of a tax burden on businesses than Florida because they don't charge for sale or property taxes (for ten years, anyway.) "For a CFO, he must be pretty bad at math," said Matt Wing.

The Start-Up NY and “Open for Business” ads that Atwater referred to in his letter show various New York industries, skylines and tout the state’s tax-free zones. In a program announced last fall, businesses that move to, launch or expand in a zone get a decade-long free pass on income tax, business, corporate, state or local taxes, sales and property taxes and franchise fees. The ads are part of a larger tourism ad campaign, which is estimated to cost New York a total of $161 million between 2011 and 2015. The cost includes the media buys and production of the campaign, which also features the revived “I Love NY” tourism ads with celebrity testimonials.

Atwater isn’t the first to criticize the Start-Up NY ad campaign. Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who is running as a Republican against Cuomo, has questioned the timing of the campaign during an election year, saying that the state has been spending its money on ads that will help his opponent's poll numbers. The ads do not feature or mention Cuomo, a Democrat.

Read the letter below.

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