The Buffalo Niagara Partnership has zeroed in on six themes it will advocate for in the coming year.
Some of those priorities involve decisions by state lawmakers, and the political landscape in Albany has changed from a year ago. Democrats now control the State Senate, in addition to the Assembly and the governor's office.
"We are committed to making sure people in Albany understand the difference in our two economies, New York City and the rest of New York State,” said Dottie Gallagher, the Partnership’s president.
The goal: “To make sure upstate New York is speaking with as loud, as clear, and as strong a voice as possible,” she said.
The region's largest business group on Thursday unveiled its annual advocacy agenda before an audience at Pub at the Park, inside Sahlen Field.
“The Partnership gives us, and other employers, a voice – focused and strategic – with public officials,” said Julie Snyder, a vice president at BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York.
Many of the business-friendly themes are familiar, but the group says the issues are no less important for ensuring the health of the local economy.
The group said its top priorities are:
• Taxes and regulations. The Partnership wants to make the property tax cap permanent, lower property taxes, and ease small businesses' tax burden.
The group opposes creating a single-payer healthcare system in the state, objects to expansion of paid family leave, and opposes "on-call scheduling" regulations.
• Promoting development and construction. The Partnership opposes expanding the prevailing wage mandate on private projects, and supports maintaining and strengthening the Erie County Industrial Development Agency's adaptive reuse policy.
The group also favors changing the Scaffold Law, which covers injuries suffered on worksites; opposes inclusionary zoning on Buffalo development projects; and supports an incentive program to stimulate "infill" development in downtown Buffalo.
• A trained workforce. The group supports job readiness efforts, including through the Workforce Investment Board. It also calls for expanding non-temporary child care benefits to working people who are participating in training and/or on-the-job "upskilling" to get the skills they need to earn more money.
The Partnership said employers continue to cite attracting and retaining a trained workforce as their top concern.
• Cross-border trade. The group said its supports "free trade policies aimed at strengthening our binational economy and vital trade relationship with Canada."
The Partnership also supports steps to keep goods and people flowing over the border, including enhanced staffing of customs agents on both sides while a Peace Bridge project is under way.
• Strategic public investments. The Partnership said the region needs more "shovel-ready" sites to attract employers. It also says the region should "pursue building a new Buffalo Niagara Convention Center" and "significantly increase" how much of the hotel occupancy tax is channeled to Visit Buffalo Niagara.
In higher education, the Partnership advocates increased operational support for SUNY institutions.
• Transportation and infrastructure. The Partnership favors pushing for an "adequate and dedicated source of funding" to fix roads, bridges and transit systems, and supports an expedited rollout of cashless tolling.
The group also calls for infrastructure improvements, such as developing the state's natural gas transmission system and upgrading the power grid.
In addition to its advocacy agenda, the Partnership named five regional priority projects it supports:
• An agriculture industrial park in Angola
• Completing the "cars sharing Main Street" initiative
• Extending Metro Rail to the University at Buffalo's North Campus
• Niagara Scenic Parkway: Riverway Phase II and Hyde Park roundabout
• Olcott Harbor breakwater