The Year Ahead: Focus on jobs, cutting taxes, revamping school aid formula

There are a number of changes taking place in Albany already with the new Governor. I'm encouraged by the state of the state address in which Gov. Cuomo cited that he will consolidate government agencies. He has hopes to reform our state budget process, cut the cost of Medicaid and reduce the number of state mandates localities face, which can help them lower taxes for property owners. I am 100 percent behind the Governor on these efforts. In fact, these are the priorities that I have advocated for in the past and have proposed a number of bills to this end. Many of the aforementioned are dependent upon the State Legislature to pass such sweeping changes. Unfortunately, only time will tell. Perhaps with his leadership, more in the Democratic majority will be willing to vote in favor of these changes.

As we anticipate the upcoming Legislative session, there are a number of laws I will work to enact.

Let's revamp the school aid formula

In the Governor's address, he said he wants schools to compete for a certain pool of funding and that performance would be rewarded with dollars. The details of this plan remain to be unveiled and he has until Feb. 1 to provide those details in his budget. I am interested to learn more because I am of the belief that low-wealth school districts should be receiving a greater portion of state aid. This would alleviate enormous burdens on school boards and administrators, who have to make ends meet with fewer resources. I will be keeping a close eye and advocating for our Upstate classrooms this year again.

Lower the cost of doing business

New York State has the highest cost of doing business in the continental U.S., according to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). This ranking can be attributed to New York's high energy (fourth highest), health care costs (ninth highest) and taxes. The Tax Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based group that studies different tax structures and state tax policies, ranked New York last in the "business class climate index" for 2010. This study looks at property, corporate, income, sales and unemployment insurance taxes to arrive at this unflattering statistic. This should be a big red flag to all state leaders. We need to provide real incentives to create jobs, send employees to school, give tax credits and breaks for job expansion and stop raising fees and taxes on businesses.

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