Letter to Governor David A. Patterson

May 19, 2009

Honorable David A. Paterson
State of New York
State Capitol, Executive Chamber
Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Paterson:

Upon conclusion of our Legislative Leaders meeting on May 6, you had requested that we provide a detailed listing of those unresolved public policy issues that should command our attention for the remainder of this Legislative Session.

Accordingly, in advance of our meeting, I submit to you the following priority items on behalf of our Assembly Minority Conference. We believe that each of these issues should be addressed openly and advanced in a timely, bi-partisan manner to achieve real solutions for all New Yorkers.

Economic Development: Our first priority is the urgent need to create a statewide economic development plan that makes New York more competitive in attracting and creating new private sector jobs, while developing initiatives that retain jobs. As our state experienced the loss of more than 160,000 private sector jobs in the last year, enactment of a comprehensive plan that puts New Yorkers back to work must rank as our top concern.

Empire Zones: Next, we need to uphold Empire Zone (EZ) program contracts with Qualified Empire Zone Enterprises (QEZEs) for 2008 and 2009, and, in so doing, meet the state’s obligation to provide benefits promised for businesses investing in New York’s economy. Likewise, we must strengthen, update and reform EZs so they are more business-friendly and can serve as even better tools for job creation and investment.

Energy: Our Conference also seeks enactment of a comprehensive statewide energy plan that reduces prices for private industry and residential customers alike, while making full use of renewable resources. Such a plan would lower our state’s excessive energy costs and remove another barrier to employers and prosperity.

Industrial Development Agencies: Reforming New York’s Industrial Development Agencies (IDAs) and, specifically, reauthorizing financing for not-for-profit civic facilities to more effectively promote local development with an emphasis on creating private sector jobs, is especially important. Our Conference would consider the inclusion of Project Labor Agreements or a “Living Wage” as antithetical to this goal and insist upon their exclusion from any true IDA reform.

Agriculture: The issue of agriculture, and the proud tradition of family farming, is vital to our economy and Conference, which is why we seek to support initiatives to increase farm-based renewable energy resources, such as bio-fuels, wind power and anaerobic digesters. The promotion of buy-local agricultural initiatives is also worthy of consideration.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority: Regarding the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, we seek an exemption of local governments from the Payroll Tax, much as we did with schools. This will spur Albany to end its practice of passing the buck onto the backs of localities.

Infrastructure: New York’s aging infrastructure is also a concern for our Conference, which is why we seek establishment of a new, five-year statewide capital plan for roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure that meets Upstate’s and Long Island’s needs. Such a long-term plan would increase the safety and reliability of New York’s roadways and help create jobs.

Mandate Relief: Pertaining to your recent announcement of a laudatory new directive requiring a fiscal impact study on certain initiatives that add to New York’s already crushing property tax burden, we urge extension of your Executive Order No. 17 to all legislation. Doing so would help curtail the unintended fiscal consequences that so often accompany even the best-intentioned legislative initiatives.

Without question, the challenges facing New York State are manifest and while our Conference’s list is by no means exhaustive, it serves as a framework for continued public deliberations. As the Legislature’s policy agenda is never static, our Conference reserves the right to present its solutions on other matters that may arise.

Governor Paterson, New Yorkers are hungry for leadership and eager to see real results. Our Assembly Minority Conference stands ready to work with you, and anyone else committed to the cause of a less costly, more affordable state and successfully move beyond the partisan finger pointing that for too long has deferred New York’s limitless potential.

I look forward to our discussion today on the aforementioned agenda items.

Brian M. Kolb
Assembly Minority Leader

cc: Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver
Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith
Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos