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Government Affairs Albany Update
May 6, 2011

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

New York’s Health Insurance Exchange Front And Center for Policymakers.

Active stakeholder meetings are underway on shaping New York’s health insurance exchange, including a stakeholder meeting convened by Governor Cuomo’s leadership team in late April; followed by a roundtable meeting convened by Senators Seward and Hannon on April 27. As envisioned by Congress in enacting the Affordable Care Act, health insurance exchanges are to serve as a portal through which small businesses and individuals can access affordable coverage and compare products and pricing for those health plans.

While both meetings were far ranging in the array of topics covered, one key policy decision must be made to enable for New York to receive federal money to help “build” the exchange: the governance construct for New York’s exchange. Three models have been identified for consideration; it appears that a public authority is the preference of most policymakers. A copy of the Powerpoint used in the Governor’s stakeholder meeting can be found here; a copy of the video from the Senate roundtable can be found here.

Senator James Seward, chair of the Senate Insurance Committee, addressed 40 members of the BCNYS Health Care/Health Insurance Committee earlier this week on the topic of health exchanges. He provided participants with insight on policy areas the Senate hopes to address in its draft health insurance exchange legislation to be available in the next several weeks. Some of the issues important to The Business Council in designing an exchange were included in a recent Connect article which can be found here.

It is expected that the Legislature and Governor will tackle some of the big issues related to establishing an exchange this legislative session. As this process continues, please contact me to express concerns, share thoughts or ask questions related to health insurance exchanges.

Solar Legislation

Senator Maziarz has introduced a new bill to promote investment in solar research and production capacity in New York. S.5141 would provide a 20% refundable tax credit for solar-related manufacturing and research, and development capital investments in New York State, and a 10% tax credit for related non-capital research and/or production expenses. The credit is capped at $25 million per taxpayer. Maziarz had previously introduced S.3203, which exempts from state sales tax solar installations at non-residential properties (with an opt-in for local sales tax exemptions.) The Business Council is supporting cost-effective approaches for the support of solar development and deployment in New York; in contrast, we have opposed legislation - S.4178 (Maziarz)/A.5713 (Englebright) – that would mandate utilities to enter into long term contracts for the purchase of solar generation, and that further add to high in-state power costs. We are looking for additional input on these legislative proposals from members who have done, or who are considering onsite solar investments.

Tax Increment Financing

The Council is supporting legislation, S.2446 (Young)/A.5296 (Schimminger), that extends the state’s “tax increment financing” law to include real property taxes levied by school districts. Under “TIF” agreements, infrastructure borrowing is supported by increased real property tax revenues resulting from the project. However, under existing state law, only non-school RPT increases can be used to support these projects. Under this legislation, school boards can elect to opt into TIF projects, and the category of eligible programs is expanded. The Council believes thi legislation would update the state’s TIF law to be more consistent with those implemented in other states, and will improve its effectiveness for supporting private sector investment and redevelopment.

Chemicals in Children’s Products

The Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee will consider legislation - S.1526 (Perkins)/ A.3141 (Sweeney) - to ban “priority chemicals of high concern” in products intended for use by children, based on determination of potential risk by the state Department’s of Environmental Conservation and Health. The Business Council is concerned that this legislation calls for state specific chemical bans and restrictions that do not employ scientific standards of review. New York should allow Congress to continue its review and reform of the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and EPA’s completion of its designated chemical action plans. Our memo in opposition to A.3141/S.1526 is available here.

Record of Compliance

The Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee will also consider moving a bill – A.2675 (Colton) - that requires detailed “record of compliance” data to be submitted with every environmental permit application filed with DEC. The Business Council believes that the DEC's current record of compliance policy provides the Department with sufficient authority to obtain additional background information from permit applicants. This bill would be more costly for businesses to comply with, and unnecessary to assure environmental protection. The Business Council opposes this legislation.

REGULATORY UPDATE

Public Private Partnerships

The Council will be testifying before a Senate Transportation Committee hearing on May 16th on how New York could use P3s to expedite and fund major infrastructure projects (oral testimony is by invitation only; the hearing notice is available here.) The Council has previously supported the concept of P3s (e.g., our testimony to the 2008 New York State Commission on Asset Maximization.) The hearing is seeking broad input, rather than comments on any specific legislative proposal. Input from Business Council members is encouraged as we develop our testimony, especially any recommendations you may have regarding P3 programs in place in other states that are considered particularly effective.

“Excess Assessors”

State Comptroller Tom Dinapoli released a report this week illustrating the cost of the high number of local assessing units in New York State. His report found that the state could save more than $12 million a year by improving assessment procedures and consolidating local government assessment duties. The report found that in 2009, New York’s city, county, town and village assessing units spent $132 million and employed 1,350 assessors, tax directors and assessment appraisers. The report found tha most states have fewer than 100 assessing units, and only seven have more than 500; New York has approximately 1,110. Of those, 981 are towns and cities and two are counties. The Business Council’s Tax Committee is working on a number of RPT administrative reform proposals, including moving the state toward county level assessments and adoption of uniform assessment standards for local taxing jurisdictions. We believe this will not only reduce administrative costs, but will improve the quality and accuracy of assessments, and avoid significant over-assessment of business property.

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