For Release — Thursday, December 29, 2005
2006 LEGISLATIVE AGENDA TO EMPHASIZE DEVELOPING AN
INNOVATION-DRIVEN ECONOMY AND REMOVING OBSTACLES TO GROWTH
ALBANY—The Business Council is preparing a legislative agenda for 2006 that outlines a range of policy objectives designed to help New York build a robust, innovation-driven economy and remove long-standing obstacles to economic growth.
The agenda, which the Council’s Board of Directors will finalize next month, recommends a range of education-related initiatives and policy changes to reduce New York's business costs and competitive disadvantages. These recommendations include include debt reform and policies to reduce New York's high costs of taxes, workers' comp, energy, health insurance, and lawsuit abuse.
Hone New York's capacity to innovate
- Support high academic standards. The Council will
oppose legislative efforts to weaken academic standards, promote new
school accountability tools available at
www.just4kids.org, and continue its Pathfinder
Award program, which honors schools around the state that rise to
the challenge to improve.
- Provide scholarships for math or science majors who commit
to serve as teachers. The Council will propose competitive,
merit-based scholarships of up to $20,000 for up to five years for 500
entering college students each year who agree to major in science or
math, and then to achieve teacher certification and teach in those fields.
New Yorkers and other Americans are falling far behind international
peers in pursuing education in math, science, and engineering, and the
gap first develops at the middle- and high-school level, where New York
schools report chronic difficulties in recruiting qualified teachers.
When fully effective this program would cost about $50 million a year,
compared to a total school-aid budget that is currently $16 billion.
- Get more and better information to high-school students about
career options and schooling required for those careers. Many
students learn too little too late about career options and requirements.
The Council plans to work with the state Board of Regents to develop
new information to help high-school students make academic and career
- Create a tax credit for contributions for scholarships for
college science, engineering, and math students. Demand for
science and engineering workers is expected to grow three times as fast
as the economy in the next 10 years, but the number of U.S. engineering
students has dropped 20 percent since 1985. New York ranks 19th in percent
of science and engineering jobs, but only 26th in the percent of degrees
awarded in science and engineering.
- Add funding to help universities fund faculty and equipment
and match federal research grants. The Council supports SUNY's
proposed $122.5 million, three-year
faculty-development initiative to support full-time faculty, technology and equipment, and to
help universities meet matching requirements of federal grants. The Council would also suport a similar program for independent research universities.
- Enact tax credits and cuts to encourage innovation.
Specific proposals include: exempting the state’s R&D credit
from all corporate minimum taxation; reducing the corporate alternative
minimum tax from 2.5 percent to 2 percent; exempting telecommunications
firms' new installations of fiberoptic cable from local property taxes
for eight years; and reforming New York’s estate tax to remove
a competitive disadvantage compared to other states.
- Rely more on apolitical experts from New York's private sector to steer the state's economic-development investments. The state doles out about $1 billion a year for development, but this spending usually reflects legislative deal-making, not strategic investment. Business leaders in regional groups should play a major role in allocating regional funding to ensure that funds target the most promising regional growth opportunities.
Break through handicaps that give New York a competitive disadvantage
- Rein in debt, spending, and taxes at the state and local government
levels. The Council will: support state Comptroller Alan Hevesi's
debt-reform proposal; seek repeal of the Wicks Law, which needlessly
inflates construction costs for school districts by forbidding the use
of a general contractor on major projects; and seek more flexibility
for counties in designing and administering Medicaid programs.
- Support Governor Pataki’s proposed workers' compensation
reforms. These include limits on the duration of benefits that
currently are lifetime benefits, and the required use of objective medical
guidelines to determine the degree of disability in comp cases. The
Governor's reform package would save enough money to simultaneously
make possible an increase in the maximum weekly benefits available to
- Address long-standing concerns about the high costs of energy
in New York. The Council will support long-term extensions
of three reduced-cost electric power programs that are due to expire
at the end of 2006. The Council will also urge renewal of Article X
of the state's Public Service Law, which was designed to expedite the
siting of power plants in the state. That law expired in 2002, which
has helped bring new power-plant construction to a virtual standstill.
And the Council will urge the Pataki administration to moderate environmental
regulations initiatives that could increase the cost of generating electricity
in New York State.
- Restrain growth in health-care costs, particularly employer-paid
health insurance. Specifically, the Council will: continue
efforts to win legislative approval of Freedom Health Plans, which would
give employers a lower-cost way to insure workers; seek liability reforms
in medical malpractice and pharmaceutical liability, which significantly
inflate health-care costs; and continue efforts to constrain health
costs by downsizing New York's hospital sector, making data on hospital
costs more readily available, and "wiring" the health-care
system by creating electronic medical records, initiating electronic
prescriptions and e-imaging.
- Reform the Scaffold Law. New York is the only state
with such a law, which holds employers and contractors absolutely liable
for worksite injuries. This inflates costs for construction contractors
and makes liability insurance more expensive and, in some cases, unavailable.
- Exempt Upstate employers from policies that inflate business costs if legislators continue to refuse to provide statewide relief. The Council also will support legislation that lets municipalities across the state opt out of burdensome mandates, if the Legislature continues to refuse to consider these reforms on a statewide basis.