- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 6, 2016

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Gov. Andrew Cuomo defended his beleaguered Start-Up NY jobs program Wednesday by saying it has cost taxpayers “nothing” - even though New York has already spent $53 million promoting it with television and radio commercials.

Cuomo’s remarks to reporters came after a state report quietly released before the July Fourth weekend found that Start-Up had has created only 408 jobs since its creation in 2013.

Start-Up uses tax-free zones at colleges and universities to attract companies. The report found that 76 jobs were created in 2014, Start-Up’s first full year, and another 332 last year.

“It costs us nothing,” he said. “Zero.”

The state has so far spent $53 million on television and radio advertisements to tout the program. But Cuomo dismissed those on Wednesday as being “generic” advertisements that promoted the state’s overall business climate - even though they mentioned the Start-Up program by name.

“The quote-unquote Start-Up ads are really generic,” he said.

The Democratic governor said the program is one of several designed to jumpstart the state’s economy, particularly upstate. He said it’s reasonable to expect that Start-Up will need time before paying off because of the nature of start-up businesses.

“We just started the program,” he said. “There is a lag time.”

The report released Friday evening said 159 companies are now participating in Start-Up. They and their employees have so far received $1.19 million in tax benefits while investing $13 million in the economy.

Several Republican lawmakers say the lackluster jobs numbers - compared to the large investments in advertising - show Start-Up should be shuttered.

“With this amount of funding, we could have helped real job creators in our state: small-business owners,” said Assemblyman Dean Murray, a Long Island Republican. “It’s time that we stop funding this political ploy, stop with headline grabbing gimmicks and start investing in real, sound economic policy designed to help businesses succeed and grow.”

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