Setting the Agenda: Economic Development

By Ken Pokalsky, vice president of government affairs, The Business Council of New York State, Inc.

It is encouraging that the 2013 session closed with a focus on promoting economic growth, with a new business incentive program, expanded small business, and—subject to voter approval— allowing new gaming venues upstate. Each of these measures will promote new investments and jobs.

Unfortunately, the Legislature missed opportunities to adopt other broad-based reforms. Both the Cuomo administration and the Senate majority coalition supported legislation to reform the state's Wage Theft Prevention Act to eliminate expensive and unnecessary paperwork mandates, as well as legislation to ease restrictions on the storage and transportation of liquefied natural gas for fleet conversions and other business use. However, both were rejected by the Assembly majority.

Earlier, New York had another on-time, low-growth budget and adopted useful reforms to the state's unemployment insurance and workers' compensation programs.

However, those positive steps were offset by energy tax extensions and a minimum wage increase that will eventually add $1 billion a year to business costs. The Legislature also imposed additional costs on business with a new “biofuel” mandate for downstate that will add millions to annual heating costs, and new compliance standards on independent truckers and their business customers.

The “Start-Up NY” program is an innovative approach to promote economic development in sectors with close ties to technology-focused college campuses. The final legislation also included reforms to the existing Excelsior program that will help small business looking to invest and grow in New York.

The 2013 session provided mixed messages to New York's business community. While New York is moving in the right direction with balanced budgets and controlled spending growth, more needs to be done.

While there will be major carry-over issues including campaign reform and equity legislation, we look for the 2014 session to major focus on economic development and job growth. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has set the stage with his tax reform commission and his public commitment to tax cuts. The Business Council will push the administration and Legislature to focus on measures to improve the state's economic climate, reduce the impact of taxes and regulations on business, all with the ultimate goal of promoting new investments and new jobs.