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They don't get the concept

A lot of people are beating up on state employee unions for not doing their bit to help the state stabilize its finances by refusing to comply with Gov. David Paterson's request that they forgo scheduled pay raises and take unpaid furloughs.

Add our so-called business leaders to the list of those who don't subscribe to the concept of shared sacrifice.

The state last week informed recipients of Empire Zone benefits that some of them will no longer qualify because of changes in the criteria. Paterson wants companies to invest at least one dollar for every one dollar of tax breaks they receive.

Imagine the nerve of that guy - expecting something back for tax breaks that amount to hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

A lot of tears are being shed that Chef's Restaurant might not be able to go through with its planned  expansion, which to me only underscores what's wrong with the Empire Zone program.

Restaurants and retail do not generally generate additional economic activity. Communities only spend so much to shop and eat out, and a new or expanded restaurant or store will only lead to a redistribution of spending. 

You eat your spaghetti at Chef's, or maybe around the corner at Ditondo's, or, if you're me, Marco's on Niagara Street. But you're not going to eat out twice that day, and, in the odd chance you do, it's that much less money in your pocket to spend the next time. That's why some economic development programs don't provide financial help to restaurants and retail.

Nevertheless, the business guys are beefing that Paterson is effectively changing the rules in the middle of the game. I guess they think that tax break programs, even failed ones like Empire Zones, ought to be exempt to mid-stream revisions.

Here's the thing: If it's unfair to alter a deal involving tax breaks, isn't it also unfair to alter a contract settlement involving employees. After all, employee unions bargained contracts that call for pay raises, not wage freezes and unpaid days off.

I mean, a deal is a deal, right?

In reality, something's got to give if the state is ever going to get back on its financial feet. Big labor says "don't look at us," and big business on the dole is saying the same thing.

I guess they think we taxpayers ought to be the only ones to pitch in.

On behalf of all we taxpayers, I'd like to dedicate this song to those of you in the "don't look at us" crowd. It's a little ditty called "Wah Wah," as in "I don't want to hear your Wah Wah."

Hit it, George.

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State government
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