Read Unshackle Upstate’s most recent guest editorial in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, in which we discuss the importance of this fall’s state legislative races can have on addressing the needs of the Upstate economy.
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Last Wednesday, a federal judge ruled that the state improperly diverted toll revenues collected from commercial truckers to maintain the state’s canal system. The case was brought by the American Trucking Associations in 2010. The group wants the money that went to the canal since the lawsuit was filed returned to those who payed tolls.
The group argued that the Thruway Authority’s use of tolls to support the state’s canal system violated federal interstate commerce rules which limit state involvement in cross-border activities such as long-haul trucking. The court agreed, saying that toll revenue must be spent maintaining the roads they’re collected on, and cannot be diverted to finance other programs.
The decision will have no impact going forward, as the state’s 2016-17 state budget transferred the canal system from the Thruway to the New York Power Authority (NYPA).
On Thursday, Gov. Cuomo announced the launch of the New York State Grown & Certified program, which will identify and promote New York producers who adhere to the state’s food safety and environmental sustainability programs. According to the Governor, the program is the first of its type in the nation. He also announced that the state will establish a $20 million food hub in the Bronx, which will employ 95 people and will increase residents’ access to fresh, locally grown and produced food.
Gov. Cuomo said:
“New York State agriculture is an essential pillar of our economy, bolstered by the modern market demands for safer and more sustainable food. The New York Grown & Certified Program strengthens the link between producers and consumers and provides new opportunities for agricultural development. By connecting Upstate farmers to new markets with a state-of-the-art food hub and promoting the consumption of healthy and environmentally conscious food, these initiatives will have extraordinary environmental, nutritional and economic benefits for all New Yorkers.”
Last week, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) approved emergency amended source of funding regulations. The revised regulations conform JCOPE’s regulations to the Lobbying Act amendments that the Legislature approved at the end of the 2016 legislative session, which Gov. Cuomo is expected to approve at some point in the near future.
The source of funding reporting requirement, which was first enacted in 2011, applies mostly to non-profits (including trade associations) and coalitions that lobby on behalf of their memberships.
The amendments, which are in Part D of S.8160/A.10742, change the source of funding disclosure requirements by:
- Reducing the annual lobbying threshold from $50,000 to $15,000;
- Reducing the threshold for a reportable contribution from $5,000 to $2,500; and
- Eliminating the requirement that organizational dues be reported (the name of the dues paying entity must be reported, but not the amount of dues paid).
Last Thursday, Gov. Cuomo hosted the state’s first regional sustainability conference in Syracuse, which brings together community development leaders to share economic growth strategies.
The conference was the first of what the Governor says will be a series of statewide events to “boost awareness of State resources available to local governments and nonprofit organizations.” In addition, the state also released the Sustainable Development & Collaborative Governance handbook, which is intended to “serves as a one-stop-shop resource for State grants.”
Gov. Cuomo said:
“From the Regional Economic Development Councils to affordable housing and upgrading the State Fairgrounds, our administration has taken a ground-up approach to foster growth and economic development in the Central New York community. Through this initiative, we are taking our efforts another step further by bringing together all levels of government and the private sector to address the region’s current challenges and help achieve its vision for a sustainable economic future. This conference is about working together to build on the progress we made over the last few years and ensure it continues for generations to come.”
Last Monday, Gov. Cuomo announced that the New York State Police is launching a campaign to raise awareness about campus sexual assault as students head to college for the fall semester. The eight-week campaign will include billboards, radio, and social media components.
Gov. Cuomo said:
“New York State put into place the most aggressive laws in the nation to combat sexual assault on college campuses. This campaign builds upon our efforts and will help ensure students know their rights, and that they have the opportunity to earn a degree in a safe environment.”
On August 30, the Senate Health and Environmental Conservation committees will hold a public hearing on water quality in Hoosick Falls. The hearings will consider water contamination; local, state and federal oversight issues; and what can be done to assist affected community and mitigate future contamination.
On September 7, the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce is holding a program titled Investing in Rochester: Early Childhood Education is Economic Development.
The Board of Regents holds its next meeting on September 12 and 13.
Primary elections will be held on Tuesday, September 13.
The state Board of Elections holds its next meeting on September 15.
The state Commission on Legislative, Judicial, & Executive Compensation holds its next meeting on September 22.
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) holds its next meeting on September 27.
Last Monday, the Public Service Commission (PSC) approved the state’s Clean Energy Standard, which requires 50 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewable energy sources by 2030. Utilities and other energy suppliers will be required to procure and phase in new renewable power resources starting with 26.31 percent of the state’s total electricity load in 2017 and to 30.54 percent of the statewide total in 2021. Under the plan, the state will provide about $500 million per year in subsidies for twelve year for the state’s nuclear reactors.
The PSC estimates that the Clean Energy Standard will increase the average residential customer’s bill by about $2 per month. Large businesses, especially energy-intensive ones, such as manufacturers, will end up paying much larger bills.
Gov. Cuomo described the standard as “the most comprehensive and ambitious clean energy mandate in the state’s history, to fight climate change, reduce harmful air pollution, and ensure a diverse and reliable energy supply.” In a statement, he said:
“New York has taken bold action to become a national leader in the clean energy economy and is taking concrete, cost-effective steps today to safeguard this state’s environment for decades to come. This Clean Energy Standard shows you can generate the power necessary for supporting the modern economy while combatting climate change. Make no mistake, this is a very real threat that continues to grow by the day and I urge all other states to join us in this fight for our very future.”
Environmental groups praised the PSC’s action, because it imposes mandates for electricity generators. The state’s Business Council criticized the PSC’s actions, saying that it failed to “properly evaluate the significant costs associated with the Clean Energy Standard.” The group says that this will cost energy ratepayers billions of dollars, and will put manufacturing jobs and jobs in other energy-intensive sectors in jeopardy.
Last Wednesday, the Assembly’s Committee on Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce and Industry held a public hearing on the state’s economic development programs.
Empire State Development Corp. CEO Howard Zemsky faced sharp questioning from lawmakers on the state’s economic development spending and system of targeted tax breaks for companies. The state’s START-UP New York program, which offers 10 years of tax-free operation for companies that create new jobs, was particularly scrutinized. According to a report released in early July, the program has created 408 jobs, despite a $53 million advertising campaign.
Zemsky insisted that the state’s economic development efforts are working, citing the state’s record number of jobs and low unemployment rate. He said that START-UP NY is helping to change the state’s anti-business image, and that it will take some time for the program to create the thousands of jobs that are expected.
It is important for the Legislature to look at the state’s economic programs to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being used properly and where they are most needed. But if we truly want to change the trajectory of our state, we have to look at the state’s economic development efforts in the context of overall state policies – some of the highest state and local taxes in the nation; over-regulation; and expensive new mandates on job creators, including a minimum wage increase and a paid family leave program.