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County IDA is right not to give incentives to companies that don’t pay their taxes

The Erie County Industrial Development Agency is on the money in not allowing tax breaks for companies that owe taxes within the county.

The policy change to block incentives to any tax-delinquent business is so sensible that it seems as if it must have been in effect all along. Now that it’s finally on the books, the county’s town and village IDAs should adopt it.

Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz was the driving force behind the new policy: “If you’re not paying your taxes, you should not be rewarded by this community with tax breaks on another project.” Well said.

While the policy applies only to Erie County delinquents for now, that could change. There is a provision allowing it to cover holdings from other counties and municipalities whose IDAs have a similar policy. That would be helpful in policing companies owing taxes elsewhere. Unfortunately, Erie County’s is the only IDA in the state with the tax scofflaw policy, although Poloncarz has pushed for it throughout upstate New York.

Poloncarz used the example of the Seneca Mall redevelopment project proposed by Syracuse developer Scott R. Congel, who owes millions in back taxes on a Rochester project. As is stands now the policy would not bar him from tax breaks from Erie County.

But even if it did, a tax scofflaw could simply bypass the Erie County IDA and approach one of the municipal IDAs with their looser restrictions.

The policy is not overly heavy-handed. It does allow companies that owe taxes the chance to explain the circumstances and perhaps win a favorable decision.

Another policy pushed by Poloncarz and adopted earlier by the IDA is not so helpful. It provides a disincentive to companies thinking about moving to the county by adding an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy to the state’s already stringent equal-pay requirements.

If the latest change keeps out deadbeat companies, the county will be better off.

There are some developers and corporations that choose not to pay their property taxes when due, as Poloncarz stated. At least when it comes to the Erie County IDA, they will not be able to collect tax breaks at the same time.