June 24, 2004
Legislative session ends with no budget, no action on key issues
The 2004 legislative session that ended this week with no agreement on a state budget, which is supposed to be in place by April 1 under the state Constitution, and no major action on any of the top priorities of New York's business community.
The Senate concluded business Tuesday, a day legislative leaders set for the close of the session many months ago. The Assembly wrapped up on Wednesday.
As the session wound down, The Council tracked debate on several key issues:
to reach compromise on yet another health-insurance mandate,
this one to require broad coverage of mental-health coverage,
faltered this week. The Senate had proposed a compromise
that would mandate some coverage while exempting employers
of between two and 50 workers. The Assembly instead passed
a measure without that exemption. That bill also would mandate
much broader and costlier coverage, and add a 3 percent
tax credit for a narrower set of small businesses. The Council
opposed the Assembly proposal, noting that it would protect
many fewer employers from the added cost burden and that
the additional costs would not be covered by the tax credit.
the Senate and the Assembly passed a union-driven bill that
would extend and expand an existing ban on the use of plastic
pipes in new construction. The Council has urged Governor
Pataki to veto this bill, which would saddle New York with
the most restrictive plumbing code in the nation.
Assembly passed a bill that would use the state's economic
development programs to create punitive and isolationist
sanctions against employers that move jobs beyond the state's
borders. The bill would require employers that receive any
broadly defined "development assistance" to return all such
aid if they move even a single job from any facility out
of state. No support for this draconian proposal has emerged
in the state Senate, and Governor Pataki criticized the
idea in remarks to reporters in early February.
"It's little wonder New Yorkers show so little confidence in New York's lawmakers and legislative process," said Business Council President Daniel B. Walsh. He cited a recent poll from Quinnipiac University showing that two-thirds of New Yorkers say state government is broken and more than half of New Yorkers saying there should be a constitutional convention to reform state government.
"New Yorkers, by a margin of 51 percent to 29 percent, disapprove of the way the Legislature is handling its job," Walsh added. "Now the question is: What on earth were the other 29 percent thinking?"
He cited as an example the Assembly's decision to approve the bill that would turn the state's economic development programs into a tool to punish businesses that choose to locate even a single job beyond the state's borders.
"It's inexplicable that the Assembly would act on a bill this dumb when no action was taken on the many significant issues that matter to business," Walsh said. "No state budget. No decision on school funding. No Medicaid reforms to lower our property taxes. No steps to make health insurance more affordable. No moves to make our electric system more reliable and competitive. Nothing to reduce our liability costs. Nothing on anything."