January 2, 2007
Governor Spitzer unveils broad 'Renew New York Agenda'
Initiative includes reforms to workers' comp and the Wicks Law, middle-class property-tax relief, and steps to increase energy supplies
Saying it is a top priority of his administration to reverse Upstate's economic decline and population losses, Governor Eliot Spitzer Tuesday announced a broad new initiative, the Renew New York Agenda, designed to spark an economic resurgence in Upstate New York.
The proposal renews the Governor's calls for reforms to workers' compensation and New York's infamous Wicks Law as well as steps to provide middle-class property-tax relief and to increase the supply of energy. The Wicks Law inflates local costs and taxes by requiring the use of multiple contractors on local public construction projects.
"We are making a commitment at the start of the new administration to do something about a long-standing problem that affects millions of New Yorkers," Governor Spitzer said. "The turnaround we seek won't be easy and won't occur immediately, but we will keep at it until the job is done."
The Governor also pledged to include a "State of the Upstate" report as part of his annual message to the state Legislature. "This presentation will track the progress of specific initiatives designed to strengthen the region's economy," the Governor's release said.
Governor Spitzer's Renew New York Agenda also would:
- Implement a three-year, $6 billion property tax cut aimed mainly at the middle class.
- Revamp low-cost power programs and look to expand generating capacity throughout the state. In addition, he said he would work to increase New York's use of wind-generated power and other renewable technologies.
- Require ESD and the state Department of Environmental Conservation "to fix the lagging brownfields program to ensure shovel-ready land for development, while also protecting public health and natural resources."
- Designate an "Upstate chair" of Empire State Development (ESD), New York's lead economic-develop agency, and create an Upstate headquarters for ESD in Buffalo. From the Buffalo office, the "Upstate Economic Development Czar" will be charged with "refocusing economic development programs and resources to meet upstate needs," the Governor said.
- Significantly expand state aid to distressed upstate cities and towns and, at the same time, require municipalities to enact "critical belt-tightening measures that will set the municipalities on a path toward long term fiscal stability."
- Increase state aid to Upstate schools in distressed cities and towns "under a new school-aid formula."
- Launch a "universal broadband initiative" to ensure that New Yorkers in Upstate cities and rural towns have access to affordable, high-speed Internet service.
- Make priorities of several regional infrastructure initiatives, including the Peace Bridge expansion, the Fort Drum connector, and the conversion of Route 17 into Interstate 86.
"The vision and goal of this effort is to tackle the underlying structural problems, make strategic investments and develop new engines of economic growth throughout the region," Governor Spitzer said.
"Upstate New York used to be an economic leader. Its cities and towns were vibrant manufacturing centers that powered the nation's emergence as an industrial giant," the Governor's release said.
"But today, the once roaring factories are silent and plywood on storefronts is an all-too common sight. There has been a decades-long decline in the region, an exodus of jobs and people that has left scores of communities on the verge of bankruptcy.
"Perhaps the most telling statistic is that the region lost more than 30 percent of young people between ages of 25-34 during the last decade."