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State must do more to improve its business climate

Questions have been raised about the effectiveness and cost of New York State’s recently adopted economic development programs, including Start-Up New York, and the Excelsior Jobs program. 

We believe that economic development incentives are a useful tool, when well designed and thoughtfully applied.

But no matter how well designed and deployed they are, financial incentives can only be applied to a small fraction of a state’s employer community.

The more pressing question in New York, and especially in upstate New York, is what are we doing to improve – or harm – the state’s overall economic climate?

Year after year and month and month as various think tanks, policy organizations and others release their state-by-state business climate rankings, New York consistently ranks at or near the bottom in virtually every category. Our taxes are too high, our regulations too onerous and our policy makers are too beholden to special interests that benefit from the status quo. Despite these conditions, and the near universal acknowledgement by elected officials that our state’s business climate needs to improve, the two signature items passed during this year’s budget were mandates on business that will cost them money, force some to close and result in jobs leaving the state. I am of course referring to the $15 an hour minimum wage and the most expansive paid family leave mandate in the country.

Thankfully, one need not look too far in the past to find examples of the state passing smart, pro-growth legislation that reduces costs for all New Yorkers. Recent years have seen some important broad-based improvements, including the real property tax cap, corporate tax reform, a cap on state spending growth, estate tax reform, and others. But more needs to be done.

We need to enact real and lasting workers’ compensation reform. Lawmakers can no longer sit idly by while the trial lawyers and unions use their money and influence to maintain their lucrative status quo. As we approach the 10-year anniversary of the 2007 comp reforms, which were universally praised at the time (even by us), it is clear that we did not solve the problem. In fact, in many ways, we made it worse.

Beyond comp reform, we also must once and for all reform the Scaffold Law to put us on par with virtually every other state. We also must: enact real and meaningful small business tax relief; expedite approvals for clean, inexpensive natural gas development to meet growing energy needs as we transition to increased usage of renewables; reform the SEQRA environmental review process; provide significant and lasting mandate relief for our local and county governments; embrace ride-sharing and other new economy businesses in a manner that fosters their growth while providing necessary protections; invest in education and workforce development; and enact the litany of additional reform measures we have been calling on for years.

We have a unique opportunity to shape the future of New York State, and we should make sure we take advantage of that opportunity. We welcome an open dialogue and encourage the governor to lead the way on an informed, rational discussion of what can and needs to be done to ensure our future is bright and make New York State more competitive.

Heather C. Briccetti is president and CEO of the Business Council of New York State.

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