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Assemblyman
Brian M. Kolb
Assembly District 131
 
Have You Had A Problem With An Overzealous State Agency? If So, I Want To Hear About It!
Legislative column from Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,I,C-Canandaigua)
April 9, 2010

In New York’s system of government, Legislative Leaders like myself, legislators in the Assembly and Senate, the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Comptroller and Attorney General, are all seen as having a great deal of authority over the day-to-day operations of state government. While this is certainly true, what is often overlooked are the numerous State Agencies that also have a direct, daily impact on New York taxpayers.

STATE AGENCIES AFFECT MANY ASPECTS OF TAXPAYERS’ LIVES

Whether you are seeking a fishing license from the Department of Environmental Conservation, renewing your vehicle registration through the Department of Motor Vehicles, or submitting your tax returns (due next week!) to the Department of Taxation and Finance, it is no exaggeration to say that State Agencies touch many aspects of your life.

However, if you are one of what appears to be a growing number of taxpayers or business owners who have had a problem with an overzealous State Agency, you know this sort of interaction is not always a good thing. In fact, you may have been left wondering exactly whose best interests the State Agency was serving: yours or theirs?

TAXPAYERS & BUSINESSES REPORTING CONCERNS ABOUT STATE AGENCIES

Over the past year, during my travels as Leader of the Assembly Minority Conference – whether speaking to business leaders in New York City or attending a Town Hall meeting in Buffalo – I have been routinely approached by business owners and taxpayers expressing their frustration and, in some cases, anger with the overzealous, costly and bureaucratic approach of some State Agencies. I also have heard similar concerns expressed right here in our 129th Assembly District.

According to some of the anecdotal feedback I have received, certain State Agencies appear to be making it more difficult, time-consuming and costly for businesses to function despite their having to operate in one of the toughest economies imaginable. Whether it is due to our state’s $9.05 billion budget deficit and agencies facing pressure to generate revenue, or an absence of proper direction from the current administration, any proven abuses by State Agencies must stop.

With over 800,000 of our fellow New Yorkers unemployed, hurting and in need of help, we cannot let the arbitrary actions of a few State Agencies stifle our economic recovery or hamstring New York’s ability to compete with 49 other states in attracting more jobs, investments and private sector opportunities.

I believe New York needs responsive, effective State Agencies that actually listen to and work with businesses and taxpayers. State Agencies are front-line providers of essential services and, as such, they should primarily be problem solvers. As a Legislative Leader, as well as a former private sector businessman who built and operated successful manufacturing companies, I know that without proper legislative oversight State Agencies can become significant obstacles to the innovations New York’s struggling economy needs.

The first step toward providing proper oversight begins with getting a handle on specific issues that businesses – from a local neighborhood mom-and-pop convenience store, to a multi-national high-tech manufacturing company – and taxpayers report from their dealings with State Agencies. Obtaining that information requires hearing directly from people and genuinely listening to their legitimate concerns. That is why my Assembly Minority colleagues and I are reaching out to New Yorkers from all regions and from all walks of life – business people, taxpayers and local government officials – asking them to notify us of the following:

BUSINESS OWNERS:

  • Has a State Agency imposed an overly punitive or costly fine on you or your business?
  • Do you feel as if a State Agency has unfairly targeted your business with overzealous enforcement or unnecessary regulatory interference?

TAXPAYERS:

  • Has a State Agency been unresponsive or denied an otherwise legitimate request for assistance made by you or your loved ones?
  • Has a State Agency refused to provide answers related to your questions on the basic operations of New York’s government?

LOCAL ELECTED OFFICIALS:

  • Has a State Agency impeded local economic development projects or made arbitrary decisions that have negatively impacted the community you serve?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, please contact my office! Any comments received will be compiled with other State Agency “horror stories” to aid us in developing common sense legislative remedies. This includes putting pressure on Governor Paterson and his Administration to ensure corrective action, providing rigorous legislative oversight of State Agencies via public hearings to highlight flagrant abuses, or using the Legislature’s “power of the purse” to withhold funding from agencies that refuse to change how they do business. The ultimate goal of our non-partisan effort is to rein in any State Agencies that may have lost sight of their mission and public responsibility: to be the taxpayer’s servant, not its master.

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 kolbb@assembly.state.ny.us. You also can follow me on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and informational updates regarding state government and our Assembly Minority Conference.

 
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