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Government Affairs Albany Update

February 1, 2008

Executive Budget Revenue Proposals

Governor Spitzer's Executive Budget proposal includes more than $2 billion in new, expanded and increased taxes and fees. Click here for our Executive Budget tax and fee overview. This highlights a number of proposed changes to the Tax Law, administrative actions by the Department of Taxation and Finance, as well as several significant non-Tax Law proposals that will affect Business Council members. I look forward to your input as we review and prepare to respond to these revenue proposals.

CIRB Reform Bill

Legislation was approved this week that restructures will alter the manner in which workers' compensation insurance rates are set in New York State. The legislation, S.6798 (Maziarz)/A.9817 (John) passed both houses and was signed by Governor Spitzer. The Business Council supported this legislation.

This legislation was driven by last year's comp reform bill, which stripped the Compensation Insurance Rating Board of most of its statutory authority, and directed the Department of Insurance to issue recommendations on restructuring CIRB and the state's comp rate-making procedures.

Previous, all commercial carriers based their workers' comp rates on a single rate proposal that was recommended by CIRB, based on industry-wide expense factors and other factors such as medical and indemnity cost trends, and approved by the Department. Under this new law, CIRB will submit industry-wide underwriting costs and losses for carriers, which would serve as the basis for company-specific rate proposals. Each commercial carrier will propose its own rate changes to the Department of Insurance based on company specific administrative (non-underwriting) costs. This so-called "loss cost" approach is used by a majority of other states, and is expected to result in more rate-based competition among comp carriers. Company-specific information will be posted on the Department's web site, allowing employers the opportunity to compare insurer-specific costs data to determine the most competitive rates.

The bill also modifies the governance structure of CIRB by including public members on its board of governance and a public actuary on its actuarial committee - changes intended to increase CIRBs accountability and transparency.  

Both The Business Council and the AFL-CIO were brought into discussions on this legislation with the Administration and legislature, and the bill received broad, bipartisan support.

ADVANCE-NY Incumbent Worker Training Grant Application Deadline

The New York State Department of Labor has established a February 29, 2008 deadline for applications under the ADVANCE-NY program. This is an ongoing grant program to provide funds to businesses to train incumbent workers in the specific occupational skills needed by that business or industry that lead to career growth and increased wages. The Department is planning on replacing this grant program with another program in the future, but the details and timeline for application under such a new program are not yet available.  Businesses planning on submitting an application under this program should do so by February 29th. Application information is available here.

Stopping the Brain Drain: “I Live NY” Task Force Pursues Aggressive Agenda
Staff Contact: Lev Ginsburg

Building from the successful “I Live NY” Task Force Summit hosted by Silda Wall Spitzer in September, 2007 Business Council President & CEO Kenneth Adams joined other task force members in finalizing strategies to build stronger connections between regional economies, institutions of higher education, and young adults. Kenneth is joined by SUNY Binghamton's Dr. Lois DeFleur, a Business Council member, as part of the Marketing Committee, which is developing ways to promote New York's employer and employment opportunities within a regional economic framework. The Summit identified several areas where strong employer-higher education connections could benefit upstate communities including the development of internship to employment pathways. Labor Commissioner Patricia Smith, also a Task Force member, announced earlier this week a competitive grant opportunity to support internship opportunities. More information on the “I Live NY” internship grant proposal can be found at: http://www.workforcenewyork.org/rfp07-p/rfp07p.htm For more information on the Task Force, contact Lev Ginsburg.

Washington Update
Staff Contact: Lev Ginsburg 

More Cities Eligible for Counterterrorism Grants
Fifteen urban areas have been added to the list of cities eligible for anti-terrorism grants, bringing to 50 the number of areas competing for $870 million from the Homeland Security Department this year. Added to the eligibility list in New York are Albany, Rochester and Syracuse.

Markey Pursuing Deal on Regulation of Wireless Telecom
House Energy & Commerce Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee Chairman Edward Markey (D-Mass.) is contemplating wireless telecom legislation that would feature tough consumer protections and a reduced regulatory role for the states. Discussions are in the early stage with a plan to craft a compromise that would give carriers preemption of state regulation in exchange for endorsing consumer protections. He is also drafting a network neutrality measure designed to prevent telecom and cable companies from treating content over their high-speed Internet systems unequally.

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