ALBANY – President-elect Donald Trump and a small group of Democrats in the New York Senate may share little in common when it comes to politics or policy, but they agree on one idea: promoting American-made products.
The Independent Democratic Conference, a seven-member group with significant influence in the state Senate, says New York State stands to benefit if Trump successfully promotes a “buy American” agenda and re-works foreign trade deals.
“This is an opportunity to be ready and benefit if, indeed, on a national level we’re forcing companies to make products in America again. Why not have them made in New York, as well?’’ asked Sen. Jeff Klein, a Bronx Democrat who heads the group.
The senators are promoting a “Made by New Yorkers” package it intends to push in state budget talks during the next session that begins this month,
The package includes:
• Giving major property tax breaks for manufacturers with operations in New York State.
• Devising a “Made in America Rating System’’ that will be help companies using and making domestic products compete for state contracts.
• Creating a “Made by NY” labeling program - similar to the “Taste of New York” effort to promote agriculture products - that would label products manufactured in New York State.
This program would help New York position itself if Trump succeeds with his infrastructure spending plan, Klein said.
“If we do get money for infrastructure, we need to be ready,” Klein said. “And we need to make sure materials for roads and bridges are American made and, under my plan, made by New Yorkers.’’
‘A real incentive’
The Independent Democratic Conference, which has forged alliances with Republicans the past few legislative sessions, will make Made by New York a priority in 2017, Klein said.
The number of manufacturing jobs in the state has fallen from 1.8 million in 1970 to 458,000 in 2011, he said.
“It’s very difficult to tell someone in their 40s and 50s, who have done manufacturing their whole life, that they have to go into a high-tech field. It just doesn’t make sense,’’ Klein said. “Our plan is to increase the number of manufacturing jobs by luring companies here.’’
New York State offers a 20 percent credit to qualified manufacturers – involved in anything from assembling products to agriculture and commercial fishing – on what they pay each year in property taxes. It costs the state about $36 million.
The conference’s proposal would boost the credit to 100 percent, costing what Klein estimated to be $200 million annually when fully phased in over the coming couple years.
“If someone has the ability not to pay property taxes, that’s a real incentive,’’ Klein said.
Klein said the tax break effort would dovetail with the conference’s call to give state contracting advantages to companies that use American-made products in items the state purchases for a variety of work, such as bridge and building construction. The state spends billions a year buying construction materials, vehicles, food, technology-related products, furniture and other items funded in the state’s $150 billion budget, as well as dozens of off-budget authorities that run the Thruway, build facilities at state universities and run power plants across upstate.
New York brand
Budget negotiations heat up after Gov. Andrew Cuomo releases his budget plan in mid-January.
The American-made rating system, whose backers have included the AFL-CIO, has kicked around in various forms for several years.
“It’s the way we combat unfair foreign competition,’’ Klein said.
The conference said New York State lost 5,400 manufacturing jobs in 2015-16, resulting in $286 million in lost worker wages per year.
The idea’s price tag for the state budget remains uncertain. The group’s plan calls for awarding state contracts to companies whose products achieve the highest American-made rating, so long as they do not raise the cost of a state contract by more than 20 percent and they meet state safety and manufacturing rules.
The conference also wants the state to spend an initial $550,000 on a “Made in NY” labeling program that would be a private and public collaboration effort run by Empire State Development, the state’s main economic development agency. To participate, at least 51 percent of a product’s wholesale value would have to be made by a person or company whose majority of operations and staff are based in New York State. Products would also have to meet current federal “Made in USA” standards.
“It’s more than pride. I think it’s something that would catch on,” Klein said. “Everyone loves New York. I think we have a great brand. It’s a way to enhance that brand, but also create jobs.”