New York City Comptroller John Liu on Thursday called for an end to property-tax breaks and other concessions to large corporations, including Madison Square Garden.
"How are we going to make up for the lost revenue? We can start by eliminating the tax breaks and corporate welfare handed out to big companies," Liu said in his State of the City address at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Overall, he said, economic development money and what he called outdated corporate tax loopholes are costing the city more than $500 million annually.
"The city's Economic Development Corporation doled out more than $250 million last year to a handful of lucky and well-connected businesses, even though the agency has a failing record of creating jobs," said Liu, a possible Democratic candidate for mayor next year.
Liu has been a frequent critic of the agency, which Mayor Michael Bloomberg controls.
"New York City Industrial Development Agency projects have leveraged billions of dollars in private investment and created tens of thousands of jobs at project locations over the last decade," the agency said in response. "We remain confident in the integrity and impact of the agency, which has been praised by independent watchdog groups as a model for other IDAs in its transparency and robust efforts to protect taxpayer dollars."
Liu also questioned a $15 million a year real-property tax exemption for Madison Square Garden. "It's time for the Garden to kick in its fair share, just like everyone else," he said.
The comptroller highlighted what he said were the successes of his office over the past year, including more than $1 billion of savings in bond refinancings; its role in the city's recoupment of $466 million in cost overruns from the CityTime payroll management system fiasco; the identification of fraudulent billing on the city's 911 call center upgrade; and emergency spending approvals related to Hurricane Sandy.
Liu's office has demanded restitution of $163 million related to alleged overbilling by consultants hired to upgrade 911.
Liu also noted that Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council adopted his capital acceleration plan, designed to rebuild city infrastructure. Liu had proposed that in his previous State of the City address, in February.
Recently, Liu proposed Green Apple Bonds, money the city would borrow for environmental upgrades to school buildings. He said the move would eliminate dangerous PCBs in 700 schools while saving the city $339 million from lower electric bills.
Moody's Investors Service rates the city's general obligation bonds Aa2, while Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor's assign AA ratings.