New York has changed — and that has paid
Four years ago, New York State began to set a new course.
In 1994, legislators concerned about the state's economic decline convinced their colleagues to cut business taxes, after years of tax increases.
Just months later, voters elected a new Governor, who said that New York must change dramatically if we were to enjoy our share of the nation's economic growth.
Now, as another statewide election season approaches, how is New York State doing? What's happened to our economy? What does the state of our business climate suggest about our prospects for the future? And most important, what should state leaders do next, to bring the fullest measure of prosperity to New Yorkers?
A better business climate = more jobs
There is no question that our economy is stronger. Businesses have created more than 330,000 jobs statewide since January 1995.
The Empire State is a better place to do business than it was just a few years ago—there's no question about that, either. For five straight years now, state leaders have enacted major tax cuts. Employers' costs of creating and maintaining jobs—workers' compensation and unemployment insurance premiums, for example—have been reduced sharply. State government's overall attitude toward business, including its regulatory climate, is no longer reflexively hostile.
This doesn't mean our problems are solved, however—far from it. New York's growth, while much closer to that of competitor states, still trails the nation in almost every key sector. We won't meet our real potential unless we determine, now, to institutionalize dramatic change in New York State.
Among other things, that means:
- Relentlessly attacking costs that still keep us from matching the nation's job growth. Even after all the progress we've made, we have a ways to go before we're competitive in areas such as business property taxes, health-care costs, electrical rates, liability costs, workers' compensation premiums, and state taxes on key industries such as utilities, banks and insurers.
- Preparing the workforce of today and tomorrow, by creating effective job-training programs and by giving every child the opportunity for a good education.
- Freeing employers to make a profit, and to keep and create jobs here, through such steps as reforming our out-of-control liability system, and making permanent the sensible regulatory changes of the past three years.
- Avoiding new burdens on business, of the sort that used to be adopted
automatically in New York and still are proposed on a regular basis. Examples
include proposals for new mandates on employer-paid health coverage,
requirements that companies provide needless training, and so on.
A corollary to this rule: Don't bash business. Instead, make it clear to employers that we want them to prosper in the Empire State.
- Telling the world that New York is truly changing. A lot of people in Albany know the political and business climate here has changed. But such awareness is less common elsewhere in the state, and it is rare among corporate decision-makers outside our borders. New Yorkers will not enjoy the full benefits of our new course, unless we let the world know about it.
The Public Policy Institute of New York State, Inc.
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