Spitzer’s upstate economic proposal met with caution

Gov. Eliot Spitzer said Wednesday he wants the state to invest $1 billion in upstate economic develo
Schenectady Mayor Brian Stratton, left, shakes hands with Silda Wall Spitzer before the State of the State address Wednesday.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Schenectady Mayor Brian Stratton, left, shakes hands with Silda Wall Spitzer before the State of the State address Wednesday.

Categories: Schenectady County

Gov. Eliot Spitzer said Wednesday he wants the state to invest $1 billion in upstate economic development, enact a local property tax cap, take action to reduce energy costs and address home foreclosures in the wake of the subprime mortgage crisis.

Responding to Spitzer’s State of the State address, Matt Maguire, spokesman for the Business Council of New York, the largest lobbying organization for New York state’s business community, characterized Spitzer’s agenda as aggressive with great potential, but said the Business Council will be reluctant to support new spending “no matter how good an idea is” if it raises the tax burden for businesses.

“Many of these ideas have very significant cost implications that weren’t covered today,” Maguire said. “We oppose raising taxes under any banner, and that includes calling it ‘closing loopholes’ [that will] just make an already heavy burden heavier.”

Spitzer said he would lay out details for his upstate revitalization program, which he characterized as similar to the state’s bailout of New York City in the 1970s, at a speech to be delivered on Jan. 16 in Buffalo.

The Unshackle Upstate Coalition, which according to group members represents 32,000 businesses from more than 60 business and trade organizations, released a statement indicating the group was encouraged by Spitzer’s commitment to upstate economic development spending.

“The Unshackle Upstate coalition welcomes that commitment and we pledge to continue to work with the governor and his administration to turn that commitment into positive results for upstate’s economy over the long term,” stated coalition member Andrew Rudnick, president and CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.

Despite calls for new spending, Spitzer said he will not seek new taxes when he submits his budget proposal to the Legislature. He said it is time to “finally get real” about New York’s skyrocketing local property taxes, especially school taxes, which make up about two-thirds of all property taxes.

Maguire said the Business Council is encouraged by talks of a tax cap if business property owners are included in the cap.

“A hard property tax cap has done wonders in Massachusetts. We think all property taxpayers need relief. We will be watching this discussion closely so that it does not exclude business taxpayers,” Maguire said.

Although Spitzer touted $1.3 billion in property tax relief delivered last year under the School Tax Relief Program he also said STAR tax rebate checks championed by the Republican Majority in the state Senate, mean little if “the state gives you a rebate check on Monday and then on Tuesday your local government taxes it away.”

Maguire said the STAR program has failed in part because it does not include business property taxpayers.

“STAR has given local governments and school districts cover to increase spending and raise their overall spending,” Maguire said.

Spitzer’s plan for reducing energy costs includes a combination of conservation; more support for clean energy production within the state, including enabling property owners to feed solar and wind energy back into power grid; and the Legislature passing fast-track power plant legislation to replace the expired Article 10 law.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, New York state has the fourth most expensive electricity among states. The Business Council of New York has placed passing a new fast-track power plant law as a major priority to increase the supply of electricity to lower costs.

“We do not think that conservation should be mistaken for a source of supply. New York needs more generating capacity and that must come from diverse sources, including nuclear power and coal,” Maguire said.

To address the subprime mortgage crisis, Spitzer said he would be working closely with state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to reform the state’s foreclosure law.

Michael Smith of the New York Bankers Association said his organization, which represents New York’s banking community, will be involved in discussions with the Spitzer administration’s task force on the subprime mortgage crisis and any proposed changes to the foreclosure law.

“We need to see details, for example does this proposal apply to all mortgages or does it apply to just subprime mortgages,” Smith said. “It’s widely recognized that New York has broad protections for consumers and homeowners under its current foreclosure law.”

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