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Fast Food Tax Breaks Conflict with City Health Initiatives

May 30, 2008

A 1976 New York City tax incentive program, designed to create jobs and support home-grown businesses amid the threat of suburban exodus, is now funneling funds from the nearly $410 million-a-year program to fast food restaurants and chain retailers. In a recent report of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, Manhattan borough President Scott Stringer argued that the subsidies are inconsistent with Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed health initiatives, and offer benefits to “businesses that simply do not deserve tax payer support.” Administered by the city’s Industrial and Commercial Incentive Program, the program limits some subsidies to businesses above 96th street, which may attract an uneven number of fast food and gas retailers to low-income areas with higher rates of diabetes, obesity and asthma. “If there was ever a picture of self-defeating government policy, this is it,” said Stringer, who has urged state legislators to reform the program when it expires in June. Last year, the budget of the incentive program exceeded spending on New York City Housing Authorities by nearly $20 million.

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