Sen. Skoufis slams Orange County IDA for alleged Woodbury Common tax break talks
An agency responsible for business tax breaks in Orange County is once again taking heat from a local lawmaker, this time for allegedly suggesting a deal with a thriving, billion-dollar business.
Sen. James Skoufis says the Orange County Industrial Development Agency, a public-private entity, recently encouraged the Woodbury Common Premium Outlet in Central Valley to apply for millions of dollars in tax breaks for its current expansion project.
According to online county records, the outlet currently pays almost $15 million a year in property taxes.
Skoufis says the owners have since agreed not to apply for any breaks after several meetings but that the offer highlights the need for IDA oversight.
"This is par for the course when it comes to the Orange County IDA. They do not care whether a project actually needs tax breaks to proceed or not. They just want to hand out tax breaks to anybody and everybody that walks through the doors," says Skoufis.
VIDEO: Sen. Skoufis comments on Orange County IDA
Skoufis says independent development agencies get money from the businesses they work with when a tax break is given.
The state is in the process of appointing a monitor to oversee the Orange County IDA after two Senate investigations, led by Skoufis, into tax breaks given to Medline in Montgomery and Milmar Foods in Goshen.
Skoufis posted about ongoing concerns with the IDA on Facebook Tuesday, the same day he also tweeted about the Orange County Partnership - a nonprofit that works closely with the IDA to coordinate tax breaks for businesses, ahead of an appeal hearing on litigation with the state about whether they should be responsible to publicly disclose their activity.
Orange County IDA CEO Bill Fioravanti says the two groups are "natural partners" working toward one goal of incentivizing local business.
"Unfortunately, our senator only wants to tear down our local economic development professionals. We should be partnering with the senator and other local officials, but he is trying to condemn us and make us less competitive against our neighbors around the region, state and beyond," says Fioravanti.
Fioravanti says the IDA has been a "soft target" for Skoufis and denies any wrongdoing. He says they welcome oversight by the state.
"We are responsible for business attraction and promoting incentives. It's lawful and encouraged. It's disinformation he's sharing with his constituents, and it's wrong," Fioravanti says. "We are thrilled this project may be happening for the Woodbury Common, and we'll see what happens about how things will progress with incentives."
News 12 reached out to the Woodbury Common for comment but didn't hear back.
Fioravanti says applicants are chosen for tax breaks based on the answers to questions asked by the IDA regarding project scale and scope, finances and whether the project would move forward without incentives. He says if the answer is yes, an application is further considered carefully.
"We want to make sure the investment happens here. That jobs are created now, that additional taxes are secured now," Fioravanti says. "People need to look at the full story, including the senator."