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Avoid an IDA problem State Senate should act next week to buy some time for real reform

The messy end to this spring's Legislature session left a lot of unfinished business. The State Senate should correct one such shortfall by extending the current Industrial Development Agency legislation at Monday's meeting, or risk more than $1.4 billion in construction projects by nonprofit organizations across the state. That would be hard to explain to constituents.

This isn't about perpetuating a flawed program of development incentives that have shown spotty results in the way of job creation, or fairness in distribution. But it is about buying time so that legislators can get back to the table to implement real reform, without creating a great deal of public harm in between.

The Assembly, which already has passed an extender, has no date set to return to Albany. That makes Senate action to get this job done all the more important.

Comprehensive IDA reform has been offered by Assemblyman Sam Hoyt of Buffalo and includes points on wage standards, encouragement of "green" building, smart growth and preference to projects in urban areas -- especially on existing brownfield sites.

The bill also includes a merger provision that would go a long way toward solving turf issues when it comes to consolidations, and strengthens the IDA law so that no doctors'offices, golf courses or law firms receive inappropriate tax-rate benefits. Still, there's always room for tweaking and some compromise, with the idea that reasonable people can come to reasonable solutions -- even if Albany is not known for such magnanimity. As an example, the Senate introduced an impractical two-year extension of the IDA legislation, while Hoyt introduced a seven-month extender. Two years is unprecedented and perpetuates bad practices for too long, when reform is needed.

A seven-month extender, as Hoyt proposed, would keep current IDA practice going until the middle of January. That would at least force legislators to work over the summer and into the fall, engaging the governor'soffice. A one-year extender, let alone a two-year one, simply plays into the deadline-driven Legislature's tendency toward cyclical status-quo revisitations rather than actual reforms.

It will take some time to resolve IDA differences, but the Legislature can't simply let nonprofit organizations twist in the wind while waiting for that to happen. An extender offers some relief, but if the Senate returns and refuses to pass that extension, more than a billion dollars' worth of development projects will hang in the balance. If resolution proves elusive, at least pass a reprieve.

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