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IDAs taxing citizens without representation

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has now stepped up the intensity of the longtime controversy of industrial development agency operations. His questions are directed specifically to the handling of state sales tax exemptions. However, there are other operational and tax categories that need to be examined.

How are IDA board members chosen? Who are the individuals who sit on IDA boards? Do campaign contributions play a part in decisions? How much county property have they taken off the tax rolls? There are annual county exemption reports, but where is the publicity? As to auditing of operations, there is an annual report that goes to the state comptroller, but that is not public information.

Where is there any public accounting of agency fees charged to developers? These generally amount to 1 percent of project value. IDAs are government operations that profit by disposing of other taxing authorities’ potential income. The current specific question concerns the part of law that allows local boards to have control over state sales taxes that would be attached to project-purchased material/equipment. Why allow a body of local government to insert itself in the taxing authority of a higher level of government? We commonly have the state directing lower levels of government, but a reverse is deserving of public review.

Why do we allow non-representative taxing entities to exist? This system takes citizens out of their right to control taxation through their elected legislatures. Strangely, no one has contested the constitutionality of the laws in federal court.

Donald G. Hobel

North Tonawanda