There is an economic theory that asserts that consumers (taxpayers) can essentially shop for compatible government as they’d shop for a car or a television. What that means is that each of us make significant decisions based on the costs versus benefits (taxes versus services). In other words, who offers the most bang for our buck?

This idea, the Tiebout hypothesis, also assumes that people have the will to move about freely until they find a combination of taxes and services they can and will afford to pay.  There are essentially two ways by which consumers can make these preferences known: Option One: voting with their feet (getting the heck out of dodge) or Option Two: the ballot box.

For far too long, it seems the method of choice for taxpayers in New York has been Option One. This is a logical effect of living in a state that boasts some of the highest taxes, health care, energy and public employee costs in the nation. This phenomenon of “voting with your feet” is what Unshackle Upstate has been working to undo since its inception, hence “we want our economy moving, not our people.”  The fact of the matter is that no matter how much someone may want to stay in New York, the balance of costs versus benefits have continually pointed to the EXIT signs. 

This was made loud and clear recently, when we hosted a number of small business owners to discuss regulatory relief with UU. One business owner stated frankly that as much as he’d like to stay in New York, it’s just plain cheaper elsewhere and he can own a business elsewhere. Another, who has locations in New York and Pennsylvania noted that everything – workers’ compensation, payroll, unemployment insurance, energy and health care – costs more in New York. She added that they are looking to expand their operation, but unless the cost of doing business in New York decreases, expanding in New York is not an option.  I should hope that these stories resonate in Albany as powerfully as a 60-second paid advertisement threatening the job security of a generation that has yet to be born.

What I also heard were the sentiments of business owners who have spent their lives in New York; attending school, starting a business and raising a family. They’re asking for a break – that’s it. A break from the Wage Theft Prevention Act, rising workers’ compensation costs, assessments on unemployment insurance, health insurance and energy. A break from the nickel and diming of businesses in New York.

Enter Option Two. UU’s efforts to raise awareness on the voting records with the 2010 Judgment Day campaign effectively changed the conversation from voting with your feet to voting with the ballot box. New Yorkers, who send roughly 95% of incumbents back to Albany, reelected only 84% – a significant change.  In return, we saw an influx of new legislators, a property tax cap and a budget that saw no increases in spending, taxes or fees for the first time in recent history.

UU will continue on this path with the Unlock NY campaign. As we move further into session, recall the promises from legislators vowing to implement real mandate relief this year.  Be mindful that more than two-thirds of households support Tier VI and note that a number of regulatory reform measures can be accomplished with no cost at all to taxpayers.  Maintaining the status quo has forced thousands of New Yorkers to vote with their feet. This year, Unshackle Upstate will remind voters that the only way to Unlock NY is with the ballot box.