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Albany, NY - All of New York State's Empire Zones converted to tax-free status at midnight last night, giving businesses that operate in them complete freedom from state sales, income, and property taxes.
"This is a proud day for the Empire State," said Governor Sweetwater, who was standing in front of the Albany Steamworks as the clock ticked past midnight. "New York has outpaced all competing states with a very simple offer: come here, and there aren't any state taxes, no questions asked. We're able to cut our regulation of the system drastically, simply demanding proof of actual operation in the Empire Zone, and businesses can grow without the red tape they faced before."
Reaction around the state was mixed. Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow Abigail Connors lauded the move, saying that "At long last I believe the Empire State has come to understand the value generated in its Empire Zones." While she expressed concern over possible increases in other taxes to make up for the lost revenue, she predicted that "state and local governments just can't keep raising one tax to make up for another. We're finally going to see the reductions in government we've been demanding for nearly seventy years."
Carl Jeffers of the Fiscal Policy Institute was less enthusiastic. "The next step, I guess, is to pay companies to come here, risk-free, with no oversight at all. Of course, it will be hard to do that, as tax revenue continuously falls. Previous iterations of the Empire Zone program had major corruption issues but also didn't do very much to increase New York's employment rate, and it's hard to imagine this doing much better. It's an impressive new step in selling out New York State's remaining citizens, though."
Schenectady Mayor Thomas Curler, in a prepared statement, congratulated the Governor for his "bold steps toward reviving New York. With the help of these enhanced zones, we'll be able to quickly rebuild our state's economy and free it from the excessive taxation that has burdened it for over a century." Curler held his own celebrations with General Electric Chairman Ross Trantor, who compared the new freedom from taxes to the "Six Sigma" achievements of earlier generations at his company - "There are a lot fewer defects in New York State now!"
In Buffalo, waterfront manufacturing is expected to get a boost, with raw materials coming in and finished goods going out - all by water, to export markets, with no other connection to taxable activities in the state. Workers coming and going from the zone will have to pay state taxes, but nothing else in the zone will. Similar facilities are opening in Rochester, Oswego, and Massena, though some uncertainty remains over the impact of rising federal tariffs.
Onondaga Lake, NY - Governor Clifford Doubleday officially turned most of New York State west and north of the Catskills over to the Haudenosaunee Confederacy at a ceremony this afternoon.
Tadadaho Thomas Lyons of the Onondaga, thanking the Governor for his work toward a clean transition, remarked that "we never gave up this land, and it never left us. Even when we were far away from it, it was never far from us."
"We seized this land from your ancestors, and abused it horribly," replied Doubleday. "We realize now that 250-odd years of unlawful occupation is more than enough, and sadly we return it to you in much worse condition than it was in when we took it."
New York State may have had little real choice in the matter, and in the end it was economics more than anything else that drove the decision. The Supreme Court had unanimously overturned City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York in 2023, calling it "the worst jurisprudence since Bush v. Gore" and championing John Paul Stevens' dissent as "plain logic applied to a difficult situation," thereby allowing the Haudenosaunee to purchase land and add it to their existing (and sovereign) reservations.
In Upstate New York's depressed economy, those purchases were relatively cheap, making it easy for the Confederacy to rebuild an empire within the Empire State. While residents had been deeply skeptical of their growing neighbors, Haudenosaunee calls for an enormous zone free of most New York State taxes proved resoundingly popular. As legal action gave further definition to the tax-free status of sovereignty, residents frequently sold their homes, businesses, and farms to the Confederacy's business agents, on terms which allowed them freedom from state taxes while retaining control for periods ranging from the lifetime of the owner to seven generations.
Haudenosaunee leaders emphasized the need to restore the land and water to its original condition, with an initial focus on Onondaga Lake, the site of the founding of their Confederacy. While seven separate previous cleanup efforts have tried to restore the lake, it has remained largely lifeless.
"Why are you still living up there, Mom?"
"Because it's my home. I'm not leaving."
"It was my home too, and I left. Marie left, and John, and Joe. Dad kept saying the taxes were killing him, and I'm afraid he was right."
"Don't talk about your father that way. He's still here. I visited his grave this morning."
"Mom, if you came down here we could take care of you. Everything's cheaper here, everything's easier. You could have your own place, your own car - it's easy to get around. You don't need to call that stupid bus and hope they show up."
"They do show up, most of the time."
"Most of the time, maybe. And if they do show up, it's a bunch of junkies on board, the people you keep paying taxes to support."
"They're not all..."
"Mom, you know who's left up there. Old people who won't move and people who like the benefits. You know that's why your taxes are destroying your retirement account."
"There are lots of us left here. Nice people."
"Sure, Mom. Lots of nice people whose children are trying to get them to leave a place with no industry, no future, collapsing bridges, and the same lousy winter it's always had. The nice people who pay everything so that other not-so-nice people can sit around and do nothing."
"When are you going to come visit me?"
"Soon, Mom, soon."
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