Economic Downturn, Rise In Unemployment Continue Weighing Heavily On New York’s Families

Legislative column from Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,I,C-Canandaigua)
July 10, 2009

Just two days prior to the recent July 4th holiday, the United States Department of Labor released its update on June’s national unemployment figures and the news was not good. Officially titled the “June 2009 Employment Situation” report, this understated name belied a rosy prognosis that some had been offering on the state of our troubled economy.

The report said that in June, employers cut 467,000 jobs – much more than had been originally forecast or even anticipated – and the national unemployment rate rose to a 26-year high of 9.5 percent. The fact that the national unemployment rate was a mere half-point away from reaching double-digits was especially troubling, as our country has not seen such a high level of joblessness since the recession of the early 1980s.

Here in New York State, where the high cost of doing business is a millstone dragging our economy down even further, the situation is just as bad, if not worse. The State Department of Labor released newly-adjusted statistics for the month of May indicating that New York had lost 212,200 private sector jobs since August of 2008. According to the Labor Department, this private sector job erosion erased over half of the 400,000 jobs added during the state's last economic expansion that occurred from 2003 to 2008. New York’s unemployment rate in May rose to 8.2 percent, its highest level since February 1993 – and the number of unemployed New Yorkers jumped over the month by 51,000 to 802,400 in May; the most since July 1976.

This bad situation is further compounded by New York having the nation’s second worst state business tax climate, America’s highest combined state and local tax burden, as well as electricity costs that are 64 percent above the national average. The 2009-10 State Budget – which our Conference and I strongly opposed – further added to New York’s costly tax burden by $8.2 billion, increased spending by $9.9 billion, or 8 percent, and did nothing to control the state’s projected $2.2 billion 2010-11 budget deficit, or its staggering $54.5 billion debt that I wrote about in last week’s column on “generational theft.” It is worth noting that the budget’s Personal Income Tax hike is expected to cost New York another 22,000 private sector jobs – this is on top of the more than 200,000 jobs we have seen vanish in less than a year.

All this news is almost enough to make you want to give up on New York State. But you can’t. In fact, now is the time to raise your voice and join the fight for real change. If you have already been speaking out for reform, great – please keep going! If not, your state needs you now, more than ever.

Our Assembly Minority Conference has been leading by example, as we have continually stood up and spoken out for Albany to deliver real tax relief, get spending under control and diffuse the twin ticking fiscal time bombs of the state’s mounting deficit and debt. It has been tough sledding at times, but, as I travel the state speaking to fed-up and frustrated taxpayers and employers, it is clear that our non-partisan, common sense message of reform and breaking Albany’s addiction to taxing, spending and borrowing is beginning to catch on.

On issue after issue, we have been advocating for the types of changes New York desperately needs. For example, we have called for the Suozzi Commission recommendations – ranging from a property tax cap, to a property tax circuit breaker and unfunded mandate relief – to finally be implemented, especially since they were first delivered to the Governor and legislators over a year ago on June 3, 2008! A state spending cap, which we also have advanced, must go hand-in-hand with a real property tax cap.

Additionally, in response to the alarming rate of private sector job loss, our Conference and I have repeatedly urged adoption of a comprehensive, statewide economic development plan that leads to the creation of more jobs where they are needed most: New York’s beleaguered private sector. With my background in starting and running small businesses, I cannot fathom why New York State still lacks this type of job creation plan. Any small-business owner reading this piece will assuredly agree that you would never run a company without a plan to serve as your strategic roadmap. Why should we allow our state to be run this way?

All told, New York State will very likely see continued job losses in our private sector because Albany refuses to get serious about addressing the bread-and-butter fiscal issues – taxes, government spending, energy costs, deficit and debt – that are weighing heavily on New York’s families. We need you in the game and on the field supporting our Conference’s call for real change in state government and a return to fiscal responsibility. If the bad economy and rise in unemployment has lit a fire, let’s make sure Albany feels the heat.

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