MSG Tax Break Vote Was Missed Opportunity to Stand Against Cronyism

By Kieran Lalor, on May 10, 2016

Albany, NY - (5/10/16) - Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor (R,C,I - East Fishkill) said the defeat of a bill to end the $48.5 million property tax break for Madison Square Garden at today's Assembly Real Property Taxation Committee meeting was a missed opportunity to stand up against cronyism. Assembly Bill A.3421 would have ended the unique property tax exemption Madison Square Garden has enjoyed since 1982.

"Madison Square Garden's almost $50 million dollar a year tax exemption is one of the worst examples of corporate welfare in New York State," said Lalor. "This was a missed opportunity to say that even billionaires with armies of lobbyists have to pay taxes. It would have been a chance to roll back corporate welfare in one of the most egregious cases. Madison Square Garden can afford to pay the squad of lobbyists in Albany it needs to avoid New York's taxes, but small businesses across the state aren't so lucky. Tax relief should be across-the-board for all businesses, large and small, and all New Yorkers. This kind of corporate welfare amounts to a subsidy of a multi-billion dollar company by every other taxpayer in New York. It's not fair to the countless small businesses struggling to survive."

Lalor added, "When Madison Square Garden got this sweetheart deal, Patrick Ewing was a freshman at Georgetown, Mark Messier had just started his career with the Edmonton Oilers and most current Knicks and Rangers weren't even born yet. Repeal of this subsidy is long overdue. The subsidy was initially granted when the Knicks and Rangers were threatening to leave Manhattan. After a billion dollar renovation to the Garden and given that the teams' high, multi-billion dollar valuation is linked to their location in New York, a move is no longer a threat."

Lalor concluded, "The cronyism in this arrangement is transparent. Governor Cuomo's former executive deputy secretary, Joseph Percoco, was hired by Madison Square Garden before he became the center of the Buffalo Billion scandal. The Daily News noted the rank cronyism even before the Buffalo Billion scandal broke: 'In a recent sign that MSG is trying to bolster its efforts on the issue, one of Cuomo's trusted advisers, Joseph Percoco, left his post as Cuomo's executive deputy secretary in December to work for MSG as a senior vice president.'"

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