2011: A Look Back at a Productive Legislative Year

A legislative Column by Assemblyman Will Barclay

All in all, 2011 was a good year for New York State. Many things were accomplished in Albany and we finally turned a corner, away from emergency spending bills and Albany gridlock. We passed a property tax cap. We passed a budget on time, and even a couple days early that cut spending. We also passed many laws that were a step in the right direction to encourage New Yorker’s to stay and businesses to grow, but we are by far done.

In 2011, New York was among the last three states in the U.S. to celebrate Tax Freedom Day. This year, our Tax Freedom Day was April 24. This is the day that New Yorkers have earned enough to pay for their taxes. This is a big economic indicator for any state and compared to other states, our ranking is below par. Despite the many improvements that can still be made, I am proud of many things that passed this session.

Power for Jobs
We did passed meaningful reform with Power for Jobs, giving businesses a better way to plan for power costs and provide low-cost power for businesses that create jobs, including farmers. This was significant because every year, this came up for renewal in the legislature and was in jeopardy of expiring. We’ve made this permanent so businesses can better plan.

Fishing Clinics for Veterans
A new law authorizes the Department of Environmental Conservation to designate fishing rehabilitation events for veterans and active duty members. I was pleased to be a prime sponsor of this legislation. Those participating would not need to obtain a license. It is my hope that active duty members and veterans can enjoy each other’s company and possibly build friendships with people who have undergone similar experiences. Providing a free clinic is a small gesture of gratitude for our service members.

Coverage for Autism
We passed legislation that was signed into law, to expand insurance coverage for autism spectrum disorders. Previously, health insurance companies were not required to cover costs relating to autism. With more than 1 in 110 children affected, the number of families affected is significant. Those out-of-pocket costs are often unaffordable. I am glad we have taken some of the burden for families away so they may receive adequate coverage.

Tax Cuts to Job Creators
As part of the state budget, the Excelsior Jobs Program was broadened to provide an extra incentive to job creators, to allow them to qualify for more than $5,000 in tax credits. It also enables businesses to better qualify for tax cuts based on wages and salaries paid. It also increases the research and development tax credit from 10% to 50%. This program replaced the Empire Zone program in 2010.

Middle Class Tax Relief
Just this month, when the State Legislature was called to a special session, we passed tax relief for those earning less than $200,000. We also lowered taxes for those earning less than $2 million. This is good news because these earners are statistically the job creators. Though I supported this measure in the Assembly, I did not agree that we need to adjust the tax brackets and raise taxes for the higher earners. We should be searching for ways to cut the cost of government, rather than take anymore from the private sector.

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