By Tom Precious
ALBANY -- While Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is flying around upstate today touting his initiative to let businesses locate tax-free on college campuses, an umbrella group of upstate business orgnizations gave a failing grade to the governor and lawmakers for their work in the 2013 session.
Unshackle Upstate called the session a "disappointment'' for failing to address a number of longstanding concerns advocates say are needed to help bring down the cost of operating existing upstate businesses.
“After two years of real cooperation and progress towards making New York state a better place to do business, the return of the old ways of doing business has caused our optimism to fade. Albany’s efforts to fix Upstate New York’s ailing economy unfortunately stalled during this year’s legislative session,'' the group said in a statement released as Cuomo was on his way from Buffalo to Rochester to tout last week's deal to give new businesses locating on private and public colleges 10 years' worth of tax breaks, including no income taxes for up to 10,000 employees. The program, called START-UP NY, is being called by Cuomo the boldest job creation plan ever for upstate, while it has been panned by an array of critics who say it ignores the needs of existing businesses struggling to afford New York's high tax levels.
"After a budget that included a minimum wage increase and an extension of an energy surcharge, Unshackle Upstate and others called on both houses to act on important, common sense initiatives. These included modifying the Scaffold Law, repealing the annual notice requirement of the Wage Theft Prevention Act, and enacting regulatory reform and mandate relief. If enacted, these changes would have improved New York’s anti-business reputation,'' the group said.
"Instead, we’re stuck with the status quo. While START-UP NY will help their respective communities create jobs in the future, it’s going to take much more to turn around the Upstate economy. Unshackle Upstate continues to believe that safe natural gas development must happen in New York. This transformative opportunity, which has been repeatedly delayed for five years, will benefit Upstate communities for decades to come. The best we can say for the 2013 legislative session is that it has left lawmakers with plenty of unfinished business to address next year. We expect our elected officials to step up and deliver in 2014,'' the group concluded.
UPDATE: Another business group called the 2013 session a “significant step back’’ for small businesses, whether through enactment of a minimum wage hike or failure to address state laws that drive up the cost of doing business.
“We acknowledge the efforts to revitalize New York, particularly upstate, through new economic investment, but have failed to see the same focus on sustaining small business. Albany needs to avoid political simplicity and focus both on our economic future and implement pro-growth policies that protect New York’s fragile economic reality,’’ said Mike Durant, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business.
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