One of the many things wrong with our politicians is that they can have a very narrow view of issues; in some cases they are nearly blind. The problem is evident in the state's decision to drop the Empire Zone economic development program, upon which upstate depends, in favor of one that is even worse, the Excelsior program. Thank you, Albany.
At the same time, it is bolstering another incentive program that mainly benefits New York City. Thank you again.
New York needs an economic development program. The state is losing businesses and jobs to other states because it is so unfriendly to business. That's borne out in the state's high taxes and the difficult and costly mandates that businesses don't face elsewhere. Add to that our high cost of power and difficult labor unions and it's no surprise that other states are taking our jobs. People are leaving New York, and just one of the costly results is the loss of two congressional districts after the 2000 census. Another may be lost as a result of this year's census.
And who is responsible for our high taxes, costly mandates and soaring power costs? The same politicians. Albany politicians, who have never had to run a business and, in some cases, have never had a real job, just see a program they can cut.
To be sure, there were abuses in the Empire Zone program. But the answer to that is not to abandon a program that is crucial to upstate's economic hopes but to fix the problems and eliminate those who were abusing the agreements they signed. In some cases, that was local elected officials who established the zones politically rather than economically. In others, it was businesses that said they would hire additional workers but didn't live up to their agreements. They should have had to pay the money back.
We have only to look at Western New York to see the 1,500 good paying jobs that GEICO established here to see the value of the Empire Zone program. GEICO came here, in part, because of that incentive. Now we have to wonder if the state will provide funds to attract the next GEICO. Under the Excelsior program, the answer is no.
Local development agency leaders say they already have heard from site developers, corporate real estate brokers and commercial realtors who say they think this will mean New York will lose projects that have been headed this way.
Excelsior will provide less money for a shorter amount of time. Given the competition from other states — which are more business-friendly and, thus, in less financial trouble than New York — we can be sure that New York is going to lose more jobs.
Upstate, especially, is in for trouble. The state just improved its film industry tax break, which mainly benefits New York City, even as it is planning to weaken economic development upstate.
This is looking like a done deal. The only solution may be for the men who are running for governor to keep their powder dry for another day. They need to reassure all New Yorkers, especially upstate residents, that they intend to fix what Albany is about to make worse.