Former Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, who heads the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce, recently called for creation of an “Upstate Caucus” in Albany. While the focus on Upstate is certainly welcome, it’s unnecessary if it cannot deliver results.
After four years in the Executive Branch, Mr. Duffy should recognize there’s already a group within the state Legislature that is speaking out and standing up for Upstate New York. It’s the Senate Republicans.
Since voters returned us to the majority in 2011, we’ve been working hard to cut taxes and create economic growth so people can find good jobs and raise their families here.
Upstate can only thrive if the state reduces the cost of doing business and the cost of living. To accomplish that, Senate Republicans have cut the major taxes paid by individuals and businesses.
We enacted the Property Tax Cap, resulting in $15 billion in savings. We slashed middle-class tax rates, securing an additional 20 percent cut this year, bringing rates to their lowest levels since 1948. We simplified and cut corporate taxes, virtually eliminating them for manufacturers. Overall, we’ve enacted 78 tax cuts totaling $11 billion.
But, just as no single economic development program will turn around our economy, cutting taxes alone cannot ensure economic growth. Therefore, I’m proposing a five-point plan to strengthen the state’s business climate and create good-paying jobs for more New Yorkers.
First, the state must review workers’ compensation expenses and develop reforms which protect worker safety and lower costs. Employers here pay almost 50 percent more than most other states —fourthhighest in the Nation — stifling growth and reducing take-home pay for workers.
Second, New York must invest in infrastructure. The quality and capacity of our energy, water, and sewer infrastructure has a direct correlation on our ability to attract high-tech manufacturing and industry. Rather than grant the necessary infrastructure to certain projects, we must make it equally available across the state.
Third, New York prides itself in maintaining tough standards that protect our environment. We can continue to do so while streamlining the State Environmental Quality Review Act, which often results in delay and red tape, scuttling high-quality initiatives for years.
Fourth, the state must lower energy costs, ninth-highest in America. We can do that by eliminating unnecessary energy assessments and preventing non-market driven fee increases. Until there is accountability, energy bills will continue to rise.
Fifth, the state must help localities stay within the tax cap. Although we have provided significant mandate relief, including billions in pension and Medicaid reform, we can do more. Let’s thoroughly review all state laws and regulations that may be hindering shared services or local consolidation. Although some officials like to blame the lack of consolidation on local politics, state laws and regulations are also a roadblock.
Thanks to Senate Republicans, the state has cut taxes and placed a renewed emphasis on Upstate. Now we must address hidden costs that make it difficult for the private sector to thrive.
We welcome anyone and everyone to join us as we work to revitalize Upstate. While some pay lip service, others are taking action.
John Flanagan, R-Suffolk County, is Senate Majority Leader.