Real Solutions For A Stronger Economy And More Private Sector Jobs
Legislative column from Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,I,C-Canandaigua)
August 11, 2009
In last week’s legislative column, I outlined the many challenges to job creation in New York State. Those challenges present themselves in the form of nonexistent or deficient public policies, such as New York’s total lack of a statewide economic development and private sector job creation plan, along with our state possessing some of the highest taxes, energy, health care, workers’ comp and regulatory compliance costs in the nation. The challenges also extend to core philosophy, as evidenced by the lack of a coherent and consistent message from state government to the private sector that New York wants their business. Compounding this are state agencies that take an inflexible, one-size-fits-all approach that discourages economic development and sends a signal to businesses that New York State’s economic development policies cannot meet their highly specialized needs. For this column, I want to outline several real solutions that will lead to a stronger economy, more private sector jobs and increased opportunities for all New Yorkers. These solutions represent just some of the bi-partisan legislative initiatives our Conference and I are working to advance. IMPLEMENT A STATEWIDE JOBS PLAN As I stressed last week – and have continually done since being elected Assembly Minority Leader in April – despite there being 854,200 New Yorkers unemployed, the most since 1976, our state still lacks a statewide plan to encourage economic development and stimulate private sector growth. We need a real jobs plan that is flexible and promotes regional solutions. From New York City to Long Island, the Capital Region, Hudson Valley, Southern Tier, North Country, Central and Western New York, to the Finger Lakes, each of these regions is distinctive, as are the needs of their respective local business community. This is why it is so important that any statewide jobs plan must avoid a cookie-cutter approach. Getting a jobs plan in place that is flexible and accounts for regional differences must be “job one.” INVEST IN CLEAN ENERGY Energy production in New York State translates into good-paying jobs. By making the right kinds of long-term investments in low-cost, clean energy that makes smart use of New York’s abundant alternatives, such as hydropower, we will maintain and even grow jobs. We also need to establish an Energy Planning Board to spur the adoption of a comprehensive statewide energy plan that reduces costs for businesses and residents. Additionally, the state needs to roll back the utility tax assessment that was contained within this year’s budget. REDUCE BUSINESS TAXES State government has been taxing businesses right of out New York for decades. One of the most effective ways to stimulate our economy is by delivering real tax relief so businesses can use that savings to reinvest in jobs, training for workers, new technologies and expansion of their facilities. We should begin by decreasing the Corporate Franchise Tax from 7.1 percent to 6.85 percent, which would put it in line with the top state Income Tax rate prior to imposition of the Income Tax Surcharge contained in this year’s budget. Also, we must reduce the Corporate Franchise Tax for manufacturers and small businesses from 6.5 to 6 percent. Furthermore, elimination of this job-killing tax alone would save affected New York businesses approximately $3.6 billion. ENCOURAGE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT While the Legislature enacted some reforms of the Empire Zone (EZ) program this year, it failed to include a provision for honoring pre-existing contracts with Qualified Empire Zone Enterprises. The result is our state currently being on a path to decertifying 600 to 700 businesses from the EZ program. New York cannot afford to let this happen. Likewise, we must take action to ensure Industrial Development Agencies (IDAs) have the ability to finance civic facilities. At present, there are nearly $2 billion in economic development projects being held up because the state Legislature still has not addressed this issue. Strengthening IDAs will allow those projects to move forward, which will in turn create hundreds of jobs. PROMOTE HI-TECH RESEARCH Research means innovation and jobs. New York’s industrial base was built on invention, innovation, research and development. We must encourage university-based research by supporting them in competition for private and Federal research dollars. New York must have an environment that encourages the next generation of entrepreneurs who want to start a company and discover the latest lifesaving medicine or breakthrough technology. STRENGTHEN MANUFACTURING Manufacturing used to be the backbone of New York’s economy – it can be again if we recognize the challenges facing this sector. As the former Chair of our Conference’s Manufacturing Task Force, I traveled the state and heard directly from manufacturers about what state government could do to stop hurting and start helping. Our “Manufacturing Preservation and Enhancement Act” would provide a Manufacturing Enhancement Incentive Wage Credit of 1.5 percent of the eligible wages to manufacturers who maintain their application-year employment benefit levels. If an employer increases employment, they will receive a credit of 1.5 percent on the initial employee’s wages and 2.5 percent of the difference between the initial and increased amount. HELP SMALL BUSINESSES In July, our Conference’s Task Force on Small Business released a detailed report based on the statewide regional forums it sponsored throughout the year to solicit input from small businesses on what New York could do to help them succeed. Our Task Force issued a whole host of real solutions, chief among them the “Small Business Improvement Act” (Assembly Bill A.4694) and the “Small Business Relief Act” (Assembly Bill A.6547). Our Small Business Improvement Act would, among other things, require that at least 15 percent of state contracts are with businesses employing 100 or fewer employees, reduce payment time to small businesses on state contracts from 60 to 30 days, establish the Governor’s Office of Regulatory Reform in statute, expand the Online Permit Assistance and Licensing program to cover all state departments, agencies and authorities requiring permits registrations and fees, and provide education grants to business owners and employees for courses necessary to support and operate a micro-enterprise business. The Small Business Relief Act includes establishing a College to Work Program to provide companies that pay college tuition on behalf of an individual a tax credit equal to 25 percent of tuition paid, allowing businesses to pay all fees, filings, and assessments as part of their annual state tax filing, elimination of the S-Corp tax for small businesses, increasing the sales tax vendor credit from five to 10 percent, raising the maximum credit to $1,000 annually to more fairly reimburse compliance costs, restoring the one percent lower tax rate for small businesses, and providing a Small Business Energy Tax Reduction. These policies and legislative initiatives represent just some of the real solutions my colleagues and I continue to advocate for as part of our efforts to grow New York’s private sector and encourage economic development throughout the state. 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.