Florida CFO: Cuomo is a 'Huckster' With Ad Campaign

Image: Florida CFO: Cuomo is a 'Huckster' With Ad Campaign Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater. (Roberto Koltun/MCT/Landov)

Monday, 21 Jul 2014 01:07 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is a "huckster," and his ad campaign aimed at luring Florida's businesses north is misleading, says Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.

"We know a huckster when we see one," Atwater told The New York Post after sending a strongly worded letter to the Democratic governor to slam him for his "START-UP NY" ad campaign.

Cuomo's administration has poured some $113 million nationwide, including in Florida, to plug New York as a tourism and business destination. Much of the advertising is for START-UP, a program that offers to free businesses from paying taxes for 10 years if they open near the state's public colleges.

Atwater said the "arrogance" of the advertising is shocking, and that the ad campaign "certainly wouldn't pass the truth-in-advertising test. Even pharmaceutical companies' ads have a rapid disclaimer."

The advertising is misleading, Atwater told Cuomo in his letter, that the program's advertisement portrays an image of New York that the facts don't support.

"The reality is that New York boasts the highest taxes in America, the highest cost of living in the country, and one of the worst business climates in the nation," Atwater wrote. "Conversely, by every objective measure, Florida continues to be one of the best states in which to start a business and raise a family."

He also listed a series of bullet points to compare New York unfavorably to Florida, including a CEO magazine report that says Florida is the second-best place in the country to do business, while ranking New York in 49th place.

Cuomo's office, though, said the ads are factually correct, as there will be no income, property or sales taxes in the zones identified and told The Post that Atwater is grandstanding.

"For a CFO, he must be pretty bad at math if he doesn't understand that the zero in StartUp's zero-tax zones means no state taxes for new businesses," Cuomo spokesman Matt Wing responded.

Atwater pointed out, though, that Florida does not charge an income tax, compared to New York's top rate of almost 9 percent. Further, he said, studies show Florida is near the top of many economic indicators, while New York is near the bottom.

Cuomo's office points out, however, that he has cut the corporate tax levy from 7.1 percent to 6.5 percent, has cut the estate tax, and has imposed a property tax cap.

And while tax rates for the wealthy have stayed high, his staff reports, overall, taxpayers still pay a lower income tax now than they did when Cuomo took office in 2011.

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