A Review of the Governor’s State of the State Address

By Assemblyman Will Barclay (R-Pulaski)

The Governor’s State of the State address this week primarily focused on the seriousness of the state’s fiscal situation. The speech was more subdued and void of the usual ‘rah, rah’ tone Governors have taken in years past. Instead, his speech focused on the economy, and specifically how vital it is for New York to keep a balanced budget.

I agreed with many of the Governor’s points concerning the budget. State spending has increased beyond what its residents can afford. For example, the budget last year, which I voted against, increased spending by 10 percent under his leadership. It also contained $8.2 billion in new taxes and fees. People are angry and they have a right to be angry. However, I found some of the speech difficult to sympathize with. Though I agree with the Governor that spending does need to be curbed, it must begin with the budget process and that process needs to be more open and transparent, rather than three men in a room as it has historically been, of which he has been an integral part.

That said, however, I am encouraged by the Governor’s intentions to limit spending. Our state needs to curb spending and I look forward to learning more specifically how the Governor proposes to do so. He made mention of agency consolidation in his speech Wednesday. This is a good starting point and I have advocated for this in the past. In many instances state offices could be streamlined to better serve residents. For example, by combining the Office of Real Property Services with the Department of Tax and Finance, we could save more than $5 million. Unfortunately his speech lacked other specific details on how to save taxpayers money.

The plan for job creation the Governor spoke of is a step in the right direction. The Governor proposes a “Research and Development” tax credit to support a broader number of investment categories in the field of technology and energy research and to create an “Enhanced Investment” tax credit for financing new capital ventures.

These are good ideas; however, he speech did not include a commitment to existing businesses. For example, he said he will allow the Empire Zone Program to expire on June 30. Though it will be replaced with another jobs program called Excelsior, this program will support businesses in specific fields such as clean energy development, biotechnology and information technology. This policy does not support existing small businesses and manufacturers. We have many businesses here that, in some cases, have moved here because of Empire Zone tax breaks. To eliminate the Empire Zone tax breaks will, unfortunately, add more reasons to their list of why they should do business elsewhere.

With simple policy changes that take tax burdens away from residents and businesses, we can keep and attract residents and businesses in Upstate. By reducing energy costs, creating new sources of clean energy, and eliminating harmful energy taxes, we can make our state more inviting to businesses. The housing is here and our schools are among the best in the country. I am hopeful we can make the new year one of reform?one void of budget gimmickry, new taxes and fees.

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