The Upstate Economy: Back In Business Or Business As Usual?

It’s the time on the legislative calendar when grandiose ideas and proposals are flying out of Albany. Next week, the Governor will present a combined State of the State and Budget Address. To lay the groundwork for the presentation, he has outlined some new initiatives for the coming year.    
 
On Thursday, the Governor announced a $1.5 billion “Upstate Revitalization Fund,” a competitive grant program that will direct up to $500 million to three “winning” upstate regions. Seven regions in Upstate New York will vie for the funding in what amounts to the Governor’s own taxpayer-funded contest. Many questions still surround the announcement. But it is curious that Buffalo was handed $1 billion in state funding, while the Finger Lakes and Rochester regions have to compete for half of that.
 
ECONOMIC INVESTMENT SHOULD BE ALL-INCLUSIVE

Investment in upstate is long overdue, and $1.5 billion will certainly not go to waste. However, Upstate New York has struggled for years to maintain jobs, businesses, and fiscally sound communities. Another program that picks winners and losers solely at the Governor’s discretion does not equate to sustained growth and long-term recovery. Hospitals don’t treat SOME ailing patients – they treat them all.
 
I talk to members of the business community on a regular basis. As a former business owner I know the challenges they face and the climate in which they operate. The fact is that the overwhelming majority of businesses won’t get any kind of “investment” like the Governor promoted this week. For entrepreneurs to succeed, they need the government to get out of the way, not exert more influence. We need comprehensive polices that: lower taxes; reduce energy costs; decrease workers compensation expenses; and eliminate onerous regulations

A TELLING LACK OF TRANSPARENCY
 
As I stated, many questions still surround the “Upstate Revitalization” program. If history is our guide, answers on a Governor-proposed economic development measure will not come easily. The START-UP NY program has been touted as the Governor’s signature effort on economic development. But comprehensive details and answers on its effectiveness have yet to be provided.

The Governor’s office pushed back the release of a mandatory report on START-UP NY’s progress, which would provide information how many jobs have been created and the tangible economic benefits. This is the Governor’s signature economic-development initiative. He has spent millions of taxpayer dollars on advertisements promoting its success and innovation. But 21 months after the launch of START-UP NY the taxpayers who subsidize it will still be without an update on its progress. 
 
Despite this week’s fanfare, there is a long way to go before our economy is on solid ground.  Lower taxes, fewer regulations, and reducing the costs on job-creating business must be the priorities. The solution to Upstate’s economic woes will come through policies, not press releases. 
 
What do you think?  I want to hear from you. Send me your feedback, suggestions and ideas regarding this or any other issue facing New York State. You can always contact my district office at (315) 781-2030, email me at kolbb@assembly.state.ny.us, find me by searching for Assemblyman Brian Kolb on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter.

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