The Buffalo Billion is funded and ready to go. With Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s pledge Tuesday to provide the remaining $680 million to fill out the $1 billion he pledged for his signature economic-development program, the path is cleared to take the Buffalo Billion from a concept to reality.
“Great stuff,” said Howard A. Zemsky, the Buffalo developer who is the governor’s point man on local economic-development initiatives.
“Simply put, we could not have asked for more in this budget relative to the Buffalo Billion,” Zemsky said. “It’s what I think of as the exclamation point on the governor’s commitment to and confidence in the future of Western New York – period, end of discussion.”
It’s still unclear exactly how the $680 million will be spent or even if it all will be included in this year’s budget, but Zemsky said the governor’s pledge provides the most concrete commitment yet that the Buffalo Billion’s initiatives will have the funding needed to come to fruition.
“With this budget, we’d have the capital funding and the working capital to implement the full range of our initiatives,” said Zemsky, co-chairman of the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council.
Included is $50 million to fund a $105 million investment in the New York Genomic Medicine Network, a major Buffalo Billion project to upgrade the supercomputer at the University at Buffalo and aid researchers analyzing genetic data in hopes of finding new treatments and cures for diseases.
Cuomo did not mention the Buffalo Billion in his speech Tuesday, and the budget still must make its way through the State Legislature, which could make changes or eliminate some of the governor’s proposals.
The proposed budget also includes:
• $150 million for priority projects funded through a fourth round of awards funneled through the state’s 10 Regional Economic Development Councils, along with $70 million in Excelsior Jobs Program tax credits.
• $25 million in tax relief for upstate manufacturers by reducing the corporate income tax rate for those industrial firms to zero. The state’s manufacturers also will be eligible for a credit equal to 20 percent of their property tax bill as an incentive to invest in their facilities.
• The governor’s recommendation to reduce the rate of the corporate franchise tax to 6.5 percent, from 7.1 percent.
• Immediate elimination of the state’s surcharge on electric bills for industrial customers and an accelerated timetable for eliminating it for all other customers.
• Create Launch Global NY, an initiative that links the regional councils’ efforts to attract international investment with the state’s Start-Up NY program to create tax-free zones for new businesses that open in selected sites near state universities and colleges, as well as qualified private institutions.