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Another Voice: Progressive tilt in Albany imperils upstate economy

By Michael Kracker

There’s been a lot of analysis and spin about the outcomes of this year’s legislative session in Albany. Many have hailed it as the most progressive session in state history. Unfortunately, much of that progressive agenda took direct aim at the upstate economy, ignoring the significant challenges that drive jobs and families out of the state.

While we applauded the passage of a permanent property tax cap – a measure that we have fought for over several years – there was no discussion about addressing the costly mandates that contribute to our sky-high property taxes. When you look at the other measures the Legislature advanced, it’s clear there was little consideration given to relieving the burden on hard-working taxpayers and employers.

New farm labor mandates will wreak havoc across upstate’s agricultural community. Farmers and farm workers voiced their strong opposition to this bill, which imposes costly overtime rules and other restrictions. In many upstate areas, family farms are critical to the local economy and a part of the community identity.

These farms are already struggling to stay open. A recent U.S. Department of Agriculture survey found that New York State lost 2,000 farms from 2012 through 2017. Thanks to these downstate-driven labor mandates, there’s no doubt that thousands of other farms will close in the coming years.

Energy costs will continue to rise in the future due to the passage of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. A conservative estimate from our colleagues at the Business Council found that this mandate will cost consumers $7 billion by 2030. While we support responsible investment in renewable energy sources, this approach is simply unaffordable.

Energy-intensive employers in the manufacturing and agriculture sectors will take a huge hit that will likely lead to job losses. For millions of upstate families, this will mean higher utility bills, especially during winter months.

Other measures like new taxes, upstate rent regulations, new bureaucratic agencies and additional employer mandates send a strong message: Taxpayers beware!

Having lost more than a million residents in the last decade, Albany needs to wake up. Unfortunately, leaders have already signaled that the worst is yet to come. While devastating measures like single payer health coverage and an expanded prevailing wage mandate fell off the table this year, supporters of these job-killing proposals will renew their fight in 2020.

Without taking serious steps to improve our harsh business climate and provide relief to our taxpayers and employers, New York is on pace to go from “the Empire State” to “the Empty State.”

Michael Kracker is executive director of Unshackle Upstate, a business advocacy group.

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