In the summer of 2010, state government was a disaster. We had a reluctant, replacement governor manning the ship as one-party rule careened out of control and the legislative session floundered into mid-August. The disastrous state budget was one of the latest in New York’s history, raising taxes by $10 billion while eroding the trust of voters statewide. Then, almost in the blink of an eye, everything changed. The electorate was furious with their representatives – and rightfully so. Voters turned out to the polls thirsty for change, and that’s exactly what they got. Incumbents were thrown out left and right and a fresh batch of legislators was ushered in with a mandate for reform, including myself.
Fast forward to the summer of 2012 and state government’s track record over the last 24 months seems nearly unrecognizable. During my time in the Assembly, we have completely altered the way that the legislature conducts business. An on-time budget in 2011 was followed by an early approval in 2012, closing a combined $13 billion deficit with no new or increased taxes and fees. An overhaul of state ethics laws took a badly-needed first step toward stamping out corruption in government.
However, it isn’t just how business is being conducted that’s changed; it’s also what business is being conducted. Gone are the days of overspending on unnecessary programs we can’t afford. Instead, we’ve secured nearly $63 million for economic development in the Capital District, finally getting serious about creating jobs in New York. The Recharge NY program was passed to provide low-cost electricity to businesses, benefiting several Capital District companies in the high-tech sector, helping them grow, expand and invest in job creation locally.
The legislature has supported the areas of our state that truly matter to families and businesses in our community, increasing funding for agriculture and securing $1.3 billion worth of restorations to education aid. A property tax cap was put in place to protect homeowners from skyrocketing tax rates that make living in New York so difficult to afford. We even were able to lower the cost of living by capping co-pays for prescriptions that seniors rely on and ending the sales tax on clothing items under $110.
With all of the accomplishments we as taxpayers have seen, Albany cannot lose sight of what work remains. I would ask Governor Cuomo, or any of my colleagues in the legislature, to spend one day with Rensselaer County Executive Kathy Jimino and see how crushing Albany unfunded mandates are on her budget. For every dollar in revenue by Rensselaer County, 92 cents already is spoken for by unfunded mandates. I’ve introduced legislation that would put a moratorium on unfunded mandates, and will continue to push for the legislature to review the effectiveness of these suffocating cost-drivers.
The Business Council of New York State recently named me the #1 pro-jobs legislator in the state legislature. I clearly understand what Albany needs to do to become more business-friendly: lower taxes on our small businesses and offer incentives for our entrepreneurs. The state legislature desperately needs to move away from the mantra of, “How can we fine, fee and tax you today” to “How can we help you succeed today” in order for New York to truly be “open for business.”
We’ve made great strides in the past two years, but much work remains to be done. By working together toward common-sense solutions, we can continue to fix New York.