In the early morning hours last Tuesday, the State Assembly formally concluded its 2009 Legislative Session. The last few days saw a flurry of legislative activity as numerous bills were passed, many of them local initiatives sought by municipalities.
The recent change in State Senate leadership, along with the ongoing legal and political wrangling over who is in control of that chamber, obviously threw a monkey wrench into the Legislature’s ability to deliver important legislation to the Governor for his signature so it could become law. Thankfully, the Assembly was able to move its legislative process forward, as evidenced by the fact that 1,242 bills passed this session, and approximately 124 of those were locally requested bi-partisan initiatives introduced by Members of our Conference.
During this session, our Conference focused its effort and energy on what the people expected and wanted us to do: debating and advancing legislation that would improve the quality of their lives, and help make our state a more affordable place to live. While we did not agree with the Assembly Majority on every matter, I am pleased we were able to find common ground on many issues to deliver the real solutions New Yorkers have been demanding.
Highlights of our actions this session included the following: strengthening ethics for legislators and disclosure requirements for lobbyists; extending the successful Power for Jobs program until May of 2010; enacting local government consolidation; promoting “Green Jobs”; and facilitating Mayoral control of New York City schools. In addition, essential local legislation was passed that applied to legislators’ home districts and municipalities. However, despite these legislative accomplishments, much of the people’s business remained unfinished as the 2009 Assembly Session gaveled to a close. Some of those unresolved issues include the following:
REAL PROPERTY TAX RELIEF: New Yorkers still pay the highest combined state and local taxes in the nation. There is a clear and present need to deliver real tax relief by capping property taxes and implementing recommendations of the Suozzi Commission, which include enactment of a property tax circuit breaker and the provision of unfunded mandate relief.
PRIVATE SECTOR JOB CREATION: According to the State Labor Department, New York State has lost approximately 212,200 private sector jobs since August of 2008. We need to stop this hemorrhaging by enacting a comprehensive economic development plan that leads to the creation of more private sector jobs, beginning with Upstate, which is reeling from the recession.
EMPIRE ZONE AND IDA REFORM: Along with a statewide economic development plan, we can spur the creation of more jobs across the private sector by reforming the Empire Zone (EZ) program and Industrial Development Agencies (IDAs). Regarding EZs, New York needs to honor contracts made with Qualified Empire Zone Enterprises for 2008 and 2009. To make IDAs even more effective job creation tools, the state needs to reauthorize IDA financing for not-for-profit civic facilities, which will lead to more projects and more jobs.
ENERGY PLAN: The fact that New Yorkers continue paying electricity costs well above the national average is proof positive of the need to enact a statewide energy plan that reduces prices for families and small businesses, while making long-term investments in the use of renewables to lessen our dependence on foreign oil.
STATE BUDGET DEFICIT: New York’s 2010-11 State Budget Deficit is projected at $2.2 billion – a figure expected to climb even higher by the mid-year financial report. As state revenues continue to shrink, the Legislature must not sit idly by – we need to be proactive in addressing this projected budget deficit and its likely impact on the provision of services and rates of taxation.
New York cannot afford for these unfinished items to be put on the backburner until the 2010 Legislative Session. The Assembly can – and should – return as soon as possible in 2009 to address these unresolved issues. New Yorkers want to see progress, and they want to see their representatives working together on finding real solutions necessary to make our state a better place. Our Conference is ready, willing and able to come back to Albany and finish the people’s unfinished business.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.