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Unfunded mandate hurts small business

Bureaucrats in Albany are at it again. As Governor Andrew M. Cuomo travels the state, unveiling his Regional Economic Development Councils, the Department of Labor is nickel and diming business owners with another costly assessment.

School districts and municipalities are well-acquainted with the budget-busting effects of unfunded mandates. At first, it was only the politicians that let the little guy foot the bill for their pet programs.

Now, the State Department of Labor is getting into the game by passing the buck onto small businesses. The department's unemployment insurance interest assessment surcharge would force businesses to cover the cost of a $95 million interest payment on federal loans to the state's unemployment insurance trust fund.

As a former entrepreneur and manufacturing executive, I'm used to seeing Albany bureaucrats give with one hand while dipping into taxpayers' wallets with the other.

Our businesses are over-regulated and over-taxed -- that's why so many of our gifted entrepreneurs have left the state! The impact of this unfriendly business climate? Job losses -- with the manufacturing industry alone facing a nearly 40 percent decrease over the past decade. When is the last time you saw anything that was made in New York?

I sent a letter to Cuomo on July 26 asking him to rescind the surcharge and refund any money businesses have already paid. This surcharge will be another job-killing burden placed on businesses. It is a slap in the face to recent efforts to open New York for business.

For the past few years, Congress has enacted legislation to make federal loans to the state unemployment insurance trust fund interest free. Unfortunately, we are still waiting for congressional action to continue this policy.

Quite frankly, if Congress fails to act, Albany must solve this problem. I believe New York should use either a portion of the nearly $800 million in surplus first-quarter tax receipts from the current fiscal year or part of the $1 billion the governor has earmarked for the Regional Economic Development Councils to cover the interest payment of the federal loans -- instead of using this as another excuse to dip into the pockets of businesses.

Putting a stop to this surcharge is a good first step, but more must be done. New York's state agencies, especially the Department of Labor, have lost sight of who their customer is -- the entrepreneur who is providing jobs for his or her community.

Instead of acting as support systems for small businesses, state agencies have a history of over-taxing and over-regulating them -- as if they were the enemy and not the customer.

We need to get our act together and work as a team to convince our job creators that New York is once again open for business.

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Brian M. Kolb, R-Canandaigua, is minority leader of the New York State Assembly.

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