Getting Albany’s To-Do List Done
Legislative column from Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,I,C-Canandaigua)
May 22, 2009
With just 15 days left in the Legislative Session set to conclude June 22, a whole host of issues – from reforming Empire Zones, to easing the tax burden on localities and taxpayers – still need resolution. This is why, in advance of last week’s public meeting between myself, Governor Paterson and the other Legislative Leaders, I outlined several priority items on Albany’s to-do list that must get done. First, I renewed my call for delivering real property tax relief to New York’s homeowners who endure the highest taxes in our nation. I urged the Governor and my fellow Leaders to join me in supporting a multi-part, solutions-based approach that addressed some of the primary cost- drivers making New York State such an expensive place to live, work and raise a family. I called for immediate action on runaway property taxes, unsustainable levels of state spending, and Albany’s unfunded mandates that drive up expenses for municipalities and local taxpayers. My solutions included a property tax and state spending cap, along with urging the Legislature’s adoption of the Suozzi Commission’s specific recommendations on mandate relief. Some of our Conference’s other agenda items included: ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: Having lost over 160,000 private sector jobs in the past year, the Legislature must push for creation of 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. Putting New Yorkers back to work must rank as our primary concern and nowhere is this more important than right here in Upstate. EMPIRE ZONES: New York’s Empire Zone (EZ) program is a critical tool for encouraging job creation and investment. We need to strengthen, update and reform EZs so they are more business-friendly, and uphold contracts with Qualified Empire Zone Enterprises to honor state benefits promised to businesses that invest in our economy. ENERGY: New York needs a comprehensive, statewide energy plan focused on reducing prices for business and residential customers, while making long-term investments in alternative resources. Enactment of such a plan will lower New York’s excessive energy costs and promote clean technologies that will power the jobs of tomorrow. INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT AGENCIES: Reforming Industrial Development Agencies will promote more effective and efficient local economic development with an emphasis on growing jobs throughout the private sector. AGRICULTURE: Supporting agriculture and preserving family farms is especially important to our Conference and New York’s future prosperity. We encouraged adoption of initiatives to increase farm-based renewable energy resources, such as bio-fuels, wind power and anaerobic digesters, along with the promotion of buy-local agricultural initiatives. INFRASTRUCTURE: According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and the Federal Highway Administration, 22 percent of New York’s roads were rated “poor,” and 12 percent of our highway bridges were classified as “structurally deficient.” That is why our Conference seeks a five-year statewide capital plan for aging roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure to increase the safety of our roadways and create jobs. MANDATE RELIEF: In a previous column, I expressed my support for Governor Paterson’s recent issuance of Executive Order 17, which required a fiscal impact study on any initiatives that drive-up New York’s property tax burden. Our Conference advocated an extension of this Executive Order to all legislative initiatives to stop Albany from issuing unfunded mandates. With so little time left, and so many issues needing attention, the state Legislature cannot afford to run out the clock. Our Conference will keep working hard to ensure the items I described are addressed openly and advanced in a bi-partisan manner. We are prepared to work with the Governor and anyone else committed to finding real solutions and achieving a less costly, more affordable New York State. I will update you on the status of Albany’s to-do list as the Legislative Session moves toward completion. As always, constituents wishing to discuss this topic, or any other state-related matter, should contact my district office at (315) 781-2030, or e-mail me at email@example.com.