Amherst IDA is part of much larger problem

Personal injury attorney William Mattar can now deduct nearly $550,000 from his tax bill after the Amherst Industrial Development Agency gave him property, sales and mortgage tax breaks for the proposed expansion of his law firm. With this subsidy deal, the Amherst IDA has once again given tax breaks to a questionable project that flies in the face of sound economic development principles or even the countywide guidelines the agency has agreed to follow.

Law firms are generally prohibited from receiving tax breaks under the eligibility guidelines followed by IDAs in Erie County. This didn’t stop the Amherst IDA from handing Mattar tax breaks. Additionally, law firms do not grow our regional economy and are “a poor use of taxpayers’ money,” as The News pointed out in its editorial, “Amherst IDA handout to law firm should trigger reforms at state level.” How unfortunate Mattar uses veterans to enrich his law firm’s bottom line with tax breaks.

The Amherst IDA is part of a much larger problem in New York. IDAs and other economic development programs across the state give out more than $7 billion in public subsidies to corporations. This means our state and local governments have less revenue for the public services we all depend on: schools, roads, public transportation, police, firefighters and more. Local taxpayers are often left footing the bill when businesses get tax breaks and avoid paying their fair share. We need real business subsidy reforms to ensure our economic development dollars are invested wisely. State legislators should pass the Just and Open Subsidies Act, which addresses flaws in our economic development programs that too many companies are exploiting.

Lynda Stephens