The Year Ahead: Focus on Jobs, Cutting Taxes, Revamping School Aid Formula

January 10, 2011

There are a number of changes taking place in Albany already with the new Governor. Iím encouraged by the state of the state address in which Gov. Cuomo cited that he will consolidate government agencies. He has hopes to reform our state budget process, cut the cost of Medicaid and reduce the number of state mandates localities face, which can help them lower taxes for property owners. I am 100% behind the Governor on these efforts. In fact, these are the priorities that I have advocated for in the past and have proposed a number of bills to this end. Many of the aforementioned are dependent upon the State Legislature to pass such sweeping changes. Unfortunately, only time will tell. Perhaps with his leadership, more in the majority will be willing to vote in favor of these changes.

As we anticipate the upcoming Legislative session, there are a number of laws I will work to enact.

Letís revamp the school aid formula

In the Governorís address, he said he wants schools to compete for a certain pool of funding and that performance would be rewarded with dollars. The details of this plan remain to be unveiled and he has until Feb. 1 to provide those details in his budget. I am interested to learn more because I am of the belief that low-wealth school districts should be receiving a greater portion of state aid. This would alleviate enormous burdens on school boards and administrators, who have to make ends meet with fewer resources. I will be keeping a close eye and advocating for our Upstate classrooms this year again.

Lower the cost of doing business

New York State has the highest cost of doing business in the continental U.S., according to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). This ranking can be attributed to New Yorkís high energy (fourth highest), and health care costs (ninth highest), and taxes. The Tax Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based group that studies different tax structures and state tax policies, ranked New York last in the ďbusiness class climate indexĒ for 2010. This study looks at property, corporate, income, sales and unemployment insurance taxes to arrive at this unflattering statistic. This should be a big red flag to all state leaders. We need to provide real incentives to create jobs, send employees to school, give tax credits and breaks for job expansion and stop raising fees and taxes on businesses.

Lower the cost of energy

According to the Public Policy Institute of New York, New Yorkers pay some $3.4 billion a year in taxes tucked out of sight in their electricity and gas bills. Two years ago, the state passed an enormous energy tax increase. This rate increase, though pennies on the average residentís utility bill, multiplies exponentially for manufacturers and employers. I voted against this measure in the Assembly and sponsored legislation to repeal this tax. However, our Majority leaders saw that this repeal did not come to the Assembly floor. Energy costs are high enough without the frustration and burden of more taxes on a basic and essential commodity. We need to lower this tax. Lowering the cost of energy will help make us more competitive for jobs with other states. With our rankings with various foundations and organizations, we need all the help we can get to keep and attract jobs here.

This New Year gives us an opportunity to reinvent ourselves, as well as our state. There is much work to be done and I hope that this year provides opportunities to accomplish these goals together, rather than be stuck in political gridlock, waiting to hear what the three men in a room come up with. I am hopeful that most of us have ambitions for a productive session that truly represents our areasí interests. By cutting property taxes, lowering the cost of energy and doing business, reducing unfunded mandates for localities, and lowering property taxes, New York will become a better state to live and work in.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns regarding this or any other state matter, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list, contact me by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at, or by phone at (315) 598-5185.