Republican gubernatorial hopeful Rob Astorino unveiled a plan to boost New York's economy Tuesday that calls for lower taxes, less red tape, hydraulic fracturing for natural gas and incentives for high-tech industries and agriculture.
One of Astorino's more unusual proposals is no highway tolls for farmers taking their goods to market.
The plan is one of the most comprehensive yet from the Westchester County executive, who is challenging Gov. Andrew Cuomo's bid for a second term, and highlights an issue that both candidates say is a top priority: how to boost New York's business climate and increase jobs, particularly in upstate regions grappling with decades of economic malaise.
"With the right policies in Albany, we absolutely can take New York out of the economic doldrums and get people working again with good paying jobs," Astorino said.
Astorino's plan calls for a review of thousands of state regulations and mandates that he says drive up the cost of operating a business in New York. He said he would eliminate incorporation fees for limited liability corporations and partnerships, and reduce the wait times for government permitting.
His plan would also stop increases in state spending, eliminate a utility tax and impose a permanent cap on local property taxes. He wants to use billions of dollars in recent bank settlements on roads, bridges and mass transit.
To attract more investment, Astorino is pitching tax incentives for high-tech startups and new farms. He's also proposing regional workforce development councils to better coordinate the vocational efforts of high schools, community colleges and local industries.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the most contentious part of Astorino's plan. Astorino has said it would be a boon for rural areas of the state, but environmental advocates and many Democrats warn of environmental risk. The state now has a de facto ban on fracking as Cuomo's administration continues to study its health effects.
In response to Astorino's plan, state Democrats stepped forward to defend Cuomo, citing his work to cut taxes and improve the business climate.
"Gov. Cuomo's strong leadership is working for New York," said Peter Kauffmann, a spokesman for the state's Democratic Committee. "When Governor Cuomo took office, New York faced a $10 billion deficit and state government was dysfunctional. After four consecutive on-time balanced budgets, with 500,000 new jobs created and the most jobs in state history, New York's economy is on the move once again."