Op-ed column: New York must act to rebuild struggling upstate economy

After a campaign that seemed to stretch from here to eternity, the 2008 elections have finally concl

After a campaign that seemed to stretch from here to eternity, the 2008 elections have finally concluded. The results of Election Day were truly historic, for our nation and state alike.

However, the outcome at the state level is worrisome, especially for upstate.

Come January, almost all of New York’s elected leaders will hail from one region of the state. Sen. Malcolm Smith, from Queens, will lead the Senate Democrat majority. Joining Smith are Gov. Paterson, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli — all from downstate.

There is a danger that with this growing chorus of downstate voices, the very real needs of upstate could fall on deaf ears in Albany.

New agenda

The new reality of a Democrat state Senate magnifies the need for upstate residents to have a stronger voice in state government, which is why our Assembly Republican Conference and I are calling for enactment of a bold new policy agenda focused on renewing and rebuilding the struggling upstate economy.

Without question, upstate is hurting, having lost more than 200,000 jobs over the past 10 years, along with a mass exodus of residents. Sadly, Albany has been fiddling while upstate burns.

Job-killing taxes, high energy costs, soaring property taxes, a sagging economy, rising health care expenses, bureaucratic red tape, a state government not responsive to the upstate Main Street — it all adds up to a massive burden on upstate employees and employers who have stayed, but are struggling under a toxic business climate.

We need to rejuvenate our upstate economy, and we need Albany to finally understand that now is not the time for timidity, or more of the same, failed policies. We need bold new ideas and strong leaders who are willing to stand up and fight to put the upstate economy back on track.

Needed actions

Some of the policy prescriptions to fix our upstate economy should include:

– Cap property tax increases to take the single largest tax burden in the nation off the backs of New York homeowners;

– Ban Albany’s unfunded mandates on local governments;

– Reduce the corporate franchise tax from 7.1 percent to 6.85 percent;

– Eliminate personal income taxes for manufacturers;

– Enact a tax credit, equal to 15 percent of health insurance premium costs, paid by small businesses.

With so much of state government’s time and attention focused on the Wall Street downturn, we cannot allow the ongoing crisis in the downstate financial sector to detract from our efforts to rescue upstate.

Standing up for upstate is not about partisan politics, or pitting one region of New York against another. It is about realizing that for too long, upstate and its needs have continually been pushed to the sidelines, under both Republican and Democratic administrations who offered promises that were never kept.

One economy

Upstate cannot settle for being second fiddle any longer. Our conference and I will stand up, speak out and fight to ensure that the term “one New York economy” means also that upstate and its needs are not forgotten, and that state government actually follows through on its past pledges to transform this region into a recognized leader in economic development, private sector job creation and policy innovation.

It is time state government honored the promises made to upstate.

James Tedisco is leader of the Assembly Republican Conference and represents the 110th Assembly District, which includes parts of Schenectady and Saratoga counties.

Categories: Opinion

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