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Another Voice: New York really isn’t open for business, after all

By Andrew Rudnick

We’ve gotten lots of attention and even some real progress coming from Albany in the last two years under Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. However, this year our state elected officials – from the governor to legislative leadership to the rank and file of the State Assembly and Senate – have failed the upstate economy with their approval of a highly flawed 2013-14 state budget.

We are very disappointed with this budget and with the people who negotiated its agreement. The outcome of their closed-door work not only will further erode the upstate economy but also will significantly blunt the impact of a number of the agreed-upon priorities in Cuomo’s high-profile economic development initiatives, including our region’s “Buffalo Billion.” No rhetorical lipstick can gloss over this unfortunate reality. It also confirms to business decision-makers around the world that the state is not yet “open for business.”

In February, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership commissioned and released a Zogby International survey of hundreds of upstate employers. Clearly stated in it is the welcome intent to invest, create jobs and grow the regional economy, but only if those employers are provided with real and measurable relief from Albany’s crushing weight of taxes, mandates and regulations.

Rather than providing such relief – and by doing so, helping the upstate economy to grow – the 2013-14 state budget extends the “Temporary State Energy and Utility Service Conservation Assessment,” also known as the 18a surcharge (which is, simply put, an energy tax) on business and consumer utility bills that was set to expire next year, increases the minimum wage, and extends the “millionaire’s tax” on high income earners. Each of these decisions will have a direct negative impact on upstate employers, their employees and efforts to bring new jobs to upstate. To add insult to injury for hardworking upstaters, the 18a energy surcharge is unevenly assessed across the state; customers of the Long Island Power Authority will pay half the surcharge facing their counterparts in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany and the rest of upstate New York.

Remember these decisions the next time you’re told the state is “open for business,” and more importantly, remember them when Albany’s elected officials – all of whom will be running for offices in 2014 – claim to have eased your tax and regulation burdens. Frankly, any official who claims this budget lowers taxes and is good for jobs is fooling himself and his constituents.

We instead need our governor and Legislature to reduce the tax and regulatory burden they have imposed on employers and reduce mandates to help local governments control their costs. Only then will we see measurable job growth and only then will New York State really be “open for business.”

Andrew Rudnick is president and CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.