By State Sen. Jim Tedisco
New York state needs a New Year’s resolution and stick to it to go on a diet from taxation, spending, borrowing, mandating and regulating to turn our state’s economy around and truly open the state for business.
Since 2010, more than 1 million people have left New York state—over 190,000 people in just the past year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. New York ranks 48th in the nation for Tax Freedom Day, when people symbolically pay off all of their federal, state and local taxes and start taking home their paychecks to pay necessary things like mortgage, health care, tuition and food.
Much of the research shows that New York has one of the worst environments in the nation for the development and growth of small businesses and jobs. And recently, to add insult to injury, New York was picked as one of the worst places to retire.
Though we’ve taken some positive steps by passing the property tax cap to put a lid on out of control property tax increases, limiting the rate of Medicaid growth costs for local governments, and capping state spending to no more than 2 percent, there are still miles to go to keep New York working and open for business.
An important part of state government should be to help remove obstacles and further an environment which allows for the success of our small businesses, which historically creates 40 to 60 percent of new jobs, and then get out of the way.
A doctor takes an oath to do no harm. If our state government was a physician, they would have lost their medical license years ago for government malpractice by continuing to treat the symptoms but not curing the conditions which severely impact the fiscal well-being of taxpayers.
Case in point is the governor’s recent executive order regarding call-in scheduling that requires businesses large and small to establish a 14-day advance notice standard for scheduling and provide two hours of extra pay for last-minute assignments. This executive order, while well-intentioned, will negatively impact businesses, particularly those that are weather-dependent such as car washes, landscapers, roofers, and builders to adequately function.
People typically wash their vehicles when the weather is good. How can a car wash reasonably schedule for its staffing needs two weeks in advance and accurately predict what the weather will be like?
Myself and several of my legislative colleagues have written to the state Labor Commissioner asking for the order to be repealed, and requesting, at a very minimum, for it to be amended to exclude weather-dependent businesses and those with fewer then 20 employees.
Shifting the thinking of our state government away from its present altered reality will go a long way to reprioritizing the steps that are needed to cure New York’s ailing economy.
A part of this approach is championing an educational system that provides real opportunities for people to compete, grow and take part in the work force of the 21st century. Our state government’s role must be as an ombudsman to help remove obstacles so that people can be everything they can be with their God-given talents.
But make no mistake, as a compassionate society we must be willing to invest in and help those who have long-term challenges and who truly are incapable of helping themselves.
How do we get this done? Let’s make permanent the Property Tax Cap, which has saved taxpayers $16 billion across New York state and $344.5 million in the 49th State Senate District. The state should formalize what we’ve done the past few years and pass legislation to permanently cap annual state spending at 2 percent because if we’re going to ask our local governments to only spend what’s in their means then we should expect the same out of our state government.
We also must continue to invest in infrastructure to deal with the lurking monster in our dilapidated underground infrastructure as I’ve called for in my Safe Water infrastructure Action Program (SWAP) legislation (S.3292/A.3907). SWAP is modeled after the popular and successful CHIPS program for local roads and bridges and would provide annual formula-based funding to all municipalities in the state to allow them to identify and swap out old, deteriorating pipes, water mains and gas lines to better maintain the state’s infrastructure.
We need to reduce energy costs for ratepayers. New Yorkers now pay the seventh highest energy costs in the nation. National Grid has proposed a delivery charge rate increase of 17.5 percent for electricity and 20.5 percent for gas. On average, National Grid customers could see more than a $200 a year hike in their bills and small businesses could see even higher increases.
If this increase is approved, rate costs will be passed on to every small business and local government who will be forced to pass it back onto consumers in the form of higher prices for goods and services and either higher taxes or reduced services in order to cover increases.
I have written the Public Service Commission and urged them to reject National Grid’s rate hike. But using the bully pulpit to shame them can only go so far when a board of five appointed officials are the decision makers on any rate increases.
That’s why I have introduced new bi-partisan legislation the Ratepayer Protection Act (S.6869A.8666) to ensure our elected representatives, not five appointed bureaucrats of the PSC, have the final say with any utility rate change.
The act will ensure that any decision on rate increases or decreases must be ratified by the people’s elected representatives in the state Legislature. Without this law, New Yorkers will continue to be subject to non-elected bureaucrats who are not fully accountable to the citizenry. In other words, taxation without representation.
New Year’s resolutions are only as good as the will and commitment to stick to them. These are some realistic steps our state government can take to truly make New York open for business in 2018.
Tedisco: State Needs To Create A Better Environment For Growing Small Businesses
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