Tuesday, October 02, 2007

An Idea from Buffalo . . .

Tax-Free Zones in Upstate Downtowns?

That's the idea being floated by Assemblyman Hoyt from Buffalo.
“The strength of a region is intimately connected to the strength of its central business districts, and right now, ours is in trouble,” Hoyt said, during a midday news conference held against the backdrop of vacant storefronts along Main Street in downtown Buffalo.
The same is true for Greater Utica.
Under Hoyt’s plan, which he calls “a work in progress,” retailers operating in the downtown cores of upstate cities would be able to sell their wares without collecting local and state sales taxes. In Buffalo, that would mean an 8.75 percent “discount” for shoppers, which Hoyt predicts would result in improved sales for existing merchants, a new crop of downtown shops, and general improvement in downtown economies.
Let's face it. We taxpayers have encouraged suburban malls and big box outlets by building our highway networks . . . as well as other extensions of infrastructure (water, sewer) that would never have existed but for the central city. Witness The Orchard, Consumer Square, and other developments in New Hartford that have arisen in anticipation of the new "840." For the Uticans with cars, the developments are easier to reach than the old downtown -- and Uticans leave their money in New Hartford.

But the old downtowns remain behind -- less convenient, vastly underutilized, and a drag on the Utica taxpayers. They cannot practicably be retrofitted to be as convenient as a development designed from the ground up around the automobile. The sales tax break Hoyt proposes just could even the playing field -- think of it as paying the shopper to put up with the inconvenience of an old street network.

It could work. Buffalo Pundit, who called attention to this article, calls this a 'reverse Empire Zone.' Instead of businesses getting the break to locate somewhere, the consumer does. Doesn't that sound nice? Read more about it in today's Buffalo News.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, I think that might just work. I'd make the trip downtown when I'm in the area if I could purchase items tax free! As long as it was every day, not just once a year. Once a year the crowds would be too much and I'd avoid it.

Anonymous said...

I have heard of this working in other areas the US. I cant remember the city but this same type of idea totally brought back a NJ city that was virtually dead. Developers were taking numbers get in.