Unshackle Upstate became the second business group today to knock the legislative session that ended Saturday, saying it failed to improve the state’s business climate.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is touring the state today to tout his tax-free zones near college campuses. But Unshackle Upstate, the Rochester-based business group, was unimpressed with the six-month session, following similar comments this morning by the National Federation of Independent Business.
“After two years of real cooperation and progress towards making New York State a better place to do business, the return of the old ways of doing business has caused our optimism to fade,” said Brian Sampson, the group’s executive director. “Albany’s efforts to fix upstate New York’s ailing economy unfortunately stalled during this year’s legislative session.”
Cuomo said in Buffalo that his focus is the upstate economy, saying it has been neglected for far too long. He was visiting Buffalo, Rochester and Binghamton to promote his Start-Up NY plan, which would give companies that locate near college campuses tax-free status for 10 years.
“The fundamental negative dynamic in upstate New York is people are leaving, it’s shrinking in upstate New York, and the remaining taxpayers have to shoulder a heavier burden. And that’s why property taxes are so high,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo’s plan has faced criticism that while the program is targeted toward upstate, it also allows for a tax-free zone in each of the five New York City boroughs and its suburbs. But Cuomo said the priority is upstate.
“We’re even doing it in downstate New York, but we need to do it upstate and upstate needs to be focused on as a separate priority,” Cuomo said. “And upstate, in my opinion, hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves for years.”
Unshackle Upstate said that “while START-UP NY will help their respective communities create jobs in the future, it’s going to take much more to turn around the Upstate economy.”
The group pushed Cuomo to approve hydraulic fracturing, which has been on hold by the state.
“Unshackle Upstate continues to believe that safe natural gas development must happen in New York,” Sampson’s statement continued. “This transformative opportunity, which has been repeatedly delayed for five years, will benefit upstate communities for decades to come. The best we can say for the 2013 legislative session is that it has left lawmakers with plenty of unfinished business to address next year. We expect our elected officials to step up and deliver in 2014.”
Sampson said that session ended without regulatory relief, and “instead, we’re stuck with the status quo.”