(Note: Updated throughout.)
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration spent $15.2 million since December on television advertisements touting the state’s tax-free program for businesses, according to newly released state data.
The 30-second television ads tout START-UP NY, a program enacted last year by Cuomo and lawmakers that lifts taxes on businesses for 10 years if they relocate to a specified zone in New York, mostly surrounding State University of New York campuses.
Of the total, $8.9 million was spent airing the ads in out-of-state markets, according to Empire State Development, the state’s economic-development branch. A total of $2.1 million was spent in upstate New York, with $4.1 million spent in New York City.
The advertising campaign has been criticized by some Republicans, including Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who launched his own campaign for governor earlier this month.
The state released the spending data Thursday after receiving several requests over the past three months from Gannett’s Albany Bureau and other media outlets, including a Freedom of Information Law request filed by Gannett in January. The advertising campaign has been criticized by some liberal groups and Republicans, including Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who launched his own campaign for governor earlier this month.
“The goal of START-UP NY—the game changing initiative passed with overwhelming bipartisan support last year—is to create new jobs, attract new businesses, and encourage current companies to expand, which is why we are investing the resources necessary to get the word out to companies in New York State and across the country,” Empire State Development spokesman Jason Conwall said in a statement.
The advertisements have aired across the state and country since Dec. 10.
They promote the state as one that is open to business while showing scenes of manufacturing plants and high-tech firms, before touting a summary of the tax-free plan.
Cuomo’s image does not appear in the ads—it’s prohibited by state law—but the START-UP program was shepherded through the Legislature last year by the first-term Democratic governor.
“The new New York is open—open to innovation, open to ambition, open to bold ideas,” the narrator in one ad says. “That’s why New York has a new plan, dozens of tax-free zones all across the state.”
Empire State Development paid for the campaign with a $150 million pot of state funds flagged for marketing the state to businesses. Previously, the fund—which received $50 million in each of the last three state budgets—covered a “New York Open for Business” marketing campaign that touted the state’s business climate.
In his campaign launch video earlier this month, Astorino said the advertisements are airing to promote the governor in a re-election year, questioning why they’re airing in-state when the program is meant to attract out-of-state business. Astorino is seeking the Republican nomination to challenge Cuomo in November.
“Governor Cuomo is spending tens of millions of our tax dollars on false advertising to make it sound like he’s doing something,” Astorino said in the video. “But while he’s running those gimmicky START-UP NY ads to boost his poll numbers, families, seniors and businesses aren’t buying it, and they’re leaving the state in droves.”