Heather C. Briccetti: New York needs new growth path

February 23, 2016

In late January, the Siena College Research Institute released the findings of its ninth annual Upstate New York Business Leader Survey, sponsored by my organization, The Business Council of New York State, Inc. The survey's findings should come as no surprise to anyone who has lived and worked in New York.

According to the survey, business owners believe our state taxes are too high, and government imposes too many undue and unnecessary regulatory burdens. But perhaps the most telling finding was that, when business owners were asked whether they would open their business in New York if they could do it all over again, nearly 70 percent said they would go somewhere else. That number should stop our state's political leaders in their tracks.

It should also give our legislative leaders great pause as they consider enacting further cost mandates on employers, including an unprecedented wage hike that would increase the entry-level job rate to $15 an hour, up from the current rate of $9 an hour. Lawmakers are also considering various proposals that would create a paid family leave program in the state. No one wants to see people unable to take paid time off to care for a loved one, but we must ensure that any program recognizes the challenges this would create for employers, especially small business owners.

So, what should we be doing? Well, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has included $300 million in targeted small business tax relief in this year's budget. That is a good start, and compliments the recent work the state has done to relieve the tax burden on manufacturers. However, we must do more.

The time has long since passed for us to join every other state in enacting a comparative negligence standard for workplace injuries, also known as Scaffold Law reform. The insurance costs associated with the current system are astronomical and have put many folks out of business and their employees out of work.

We must also enact comprehensive Workers' Compensation and Unemployment Insurance reform to get a handle on the out-of-control costs associated with both of these programs. And we need to invest in workforce development and career-oriented job training. At least once a week I hear from an employer who is unable to find job candidates with the skills necessary to fill the openings currently available. There is a real disconnect between what our children are learning in schools and the skills they need to compete in the 21st century economy.

The Business Council has laid out an aggressive legislative agenda, supported by our members, which would put New York on the path toward economic growth. We hope our elected leaders listen to our message, and the findings of the Siena survey, and work with us on creating a better, more prosperous Empire State.

Heather C. Briccetti is president and CEO of The Business Council of New York State, Inc. The council will discuss the survey of business leaders in depth at an event with the Center for Economic Growth on March 8 at the Desmond Hotel. For more information, click the above link.