Government Affairs Albany Update
June 27, 2011

End of Session Report

The 2011 legislative session ended in a dramatic fashion last Friday night with passage of a marriage equality bill.  Of more direct interest to the business community, the end of session also featured final agreement on several bills long sought by The Business Council, including a cap on increases in real property taxes – coupled with an initial local government mandate relief package – and a new Article X law providing a streamlined program for reviewing new power plants.

These end of session victories, when added to earlier successes – a budget with spending cuts and no new taxes, an improved Excelsior program, a new permanent economic development energy program – produced a very positive session for business interests and the state’s overall economic climate.

Throughout the 2011 legislative session, Business Council staff was actively engaged on hundreds of individual legislative issues of interest to our membership. This report provides an update on our advocacy efforts, and highlights final results on key legislative issues.

As always, please feel free to contact our government affairs staff if you would like additional information on any of these issues.

Government Affairs Staff News

The Business Council is pleased to welcome Darren Suarez to its lobbying team as Manager of Government Affairs. Darren brings extensive legislative experience to the Council. Most recently, he was with the Government Affairs department at Hinman Straub in Albany, specializing in legislative advocacy on energy, environmental and other issues. Previously, he had served eight years on the Senate Majority Program and Counsel staff, and in government affairs roles with CUNY and Cornell University. With the Council, his areas of responsibility will be environment, energy and occupational safety and health. Darren’s email is darren.suarez@bcnys.org, and phone number is 518-465-7511, ext. 245.

To complete our staff realignment, Marcus Ferguson will take over our financial services program, including banks, insurance, accounting and related members and issues. In addition, Marcus will retain responsibility for consumer and telecommunications issues. Tom Minnick has taken on responsibilities for construction and transportation areas, in addition to labor and human resources.

These changes will improve our overall advocacy efforts, by bring closely related issue areas together under a single staff member. We look forward to your support over the summer months as staff transitions into their new program areas.

Staff contact: ken.pokalsky@bcnys.org

Mandate Relief

The tax cap/rent control legislation adopted on the final day of session also included more than thirty specific mandate relief measures. It also created a Mandate Relief Council within the Executive Department, which among other things is charged with recommending statutory and regulatory amends to eliminate or modify burdensome state-imposed mandates. Our summary of the full mandate relief package is available here.

Staff contact: lev.ginsburg@bcnys.org

Tax Receipts Increase

State income tax collections were up 35 percent, or $1.8 billion, for the first two months of state fiscal year 2012, compared to the prior year, contributing to a $24 billion bump in overall state revenues for that period. These figures are from the State Comptroller’s recently released monthly cash report. Business tax income increased by an even greater level, up 65 percent on a much smaller base, producing about $155 million in increased revenues. Comptroller Tom DiNapoli cautioned that state revenues remain highly volatile, and “it’s too soon to determine if this is a trend or an aberration,” and that “the economy is still too uncertain, and there are still significant risks to the [state’s] financial plan.”  Further details are available here.