The Business Council of Westchester has been actively involved in a number of public policy issues aimed at improving the business climate in New York State and Westchester. The Council has forged strong working alliance with the Business Council of New York State and CANYS (Chamber Alliance of New York State) on statewide issues and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for federal issues. Westchester businesses and residents have been severely impacted by the economic downturn. Governments at all levels are facing huge budget shortfalls that force difficult choices in how resources are allocated.
Underlying the current economic challenges is a basic economic premise that the private sector is the sources of wealth; it enables government to provide the services we need. The BCW continues to advocate for long-term reforms in government spending and fiscal policy that will create jobs and an accelerated and lasting economic recovery.
A recap of the current legislative session in Albany and end-of-session priorities illustrates there is much more work to be done as highlighted below:
Fiscal Reform/Affordable New York
The 2009-2010 budget passed by the state legislature is a prime example that Albany has wasted an opportunity to make fundamental reforms in how it conducts business. Despite the economic crisis, it was business as usual for our elected officials in Albany with an approved budget that contained $7 billion in new taxes and fees, the largest tax hike in New York State history. The BCW was outraged at the budget and noted in its press release urging its defeat that the budget did nothing to encourage economic development or job creation.
The BCW will continue to advocate for fiscal reform, which it deems a long-term project. As an initial step, the Business Council joined with the Business Council of New York State, the National Federation of Independent Businesses and Unshackle Upstate to create a coalition with the goal of having our lawmakers enact an agenda for an affordable New York. This agenda includes enactment of Gov. Paterson’s proposed spending cap; the property tax cap and mandate relief proposals put forward by the Commission on Property Tax Relief; local government consolidation proposals consistent with the recommendations of the Commission on Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness.
We also intend to initiate a grass roots campaign to engage employees of our member companies on this subject and explore other opportunities in partnering with organizations that share our fiscal reform agenda.
MTA Payroll Tax
The BCW was an early opponent of the inclusion of a payroll tax of 0.34 percent (34 cents per $100 of payroll) to bail out the MTA. We joined with other chamber leaders in the Mid-Hudson Valley in opposing the tax at the onset while demanding greater MTA accountability. This topic was a key priority during our annual lobbying day in Albany during meetings with members of the Westchester delegation and a lengthy session with Majority Leader Malcolm Smith. Although the tax was passed, we will continue to advocate for greater transparency at the MTA and the repeal of the tax when the economy recovers.
Expanded Bottle Bill
The BCW, acting on behalf of three of its members who are beverage manufacturers/distributors – Heineken USA, Krasdale Foods and Danone Waters of America, Inc. – has urged Gov. Paterson and state lawmakers to repeal the section of the expanded bottle bill that requires a unique UPC code for all bottles and cans sold in New York. This requirement will require dual product inventory and make production and distribution of affected beverages more expensive in New York, costs that will ultimately be passed onto the consumer. As a result of the efforts of the BCW and the beverage industry Gov. Paterson has submitted legislation that will repeal the state specific UPC code for New York. We will advocate for enactment of this bill by the State Legislature.
Industrial Development Agency
Legislation that will significantly harm economic development efforts in New York (A3659-Hoyt/S.1241-Thompson) has draw strong opposition from the BCW and economic development organizations through out the state. Prevailing wage mandates contained in this legislation would significantly increase project costs, thereby making New York more costly and less competitive. Other aspects of this legislation, including the make-up of IDA boards and the project approval process, are also harmful to IDAs, the most important economic development program for local governments. We will continue to urge our legislators to oppose this legislation.
On the federal level the Employee Free Choice Act (Card Check) remains a top priority. This legislation would end secret ballots in union » elections, impose an arbitrator’s collective bargaining agreement on employers and employees if the parties do not agree on terms after 120 days and dramatically strengthen penalties against employers, but not unions, for alleged unfair labor practices. The battle is being
fought in the Senate where a vote in favor of cloture is close. The BCW will continue to coordinate its advocacy efforts with the U.S.
Chamber on this issue.
The BCW will also be monitoring bills dealing with mandated paid family leave (paying disability benefits for child bonding and caring
for ill family members), unemployment insurance (giving the Labor Commissioner the authority to set the taxable wage base to fund annual increases in benefits) and establishing a commercial assessment ratio for Westchester (transferring more of the property tax burden to commercial property owners).
Do you want to help The Business Council of Westchester make New York State a better place to do business? Then visit our online Legislative Advocacy Center, accessible through westchesterny.org. In addition to our Legislative Agenda, latest news (business and political articles from newspapers around the country) and Voter Resources (“find my elected officials,” register to vote, absentee ballots), the Advocacy center allows you to take immediate action by writing letters elected officials on the federal and state levels as well as to media outlets, including the New York Times and The Journal News. This section will soon be expanded to include elected officials on the local level – county and municipality. Also pay attention to action alerts and banner ads promoting public policy events and information, such as new members of Congress, energy projects that are in jeopardy because of NIMBYism, the US Chamber’s Small Business Summit in Washington, etc.
Visit westchesterny.org today.
Dr. Marsha Gordon is president and chief executive officer of The Business Council of Westchester.