Economy, Ethics and Nuclear Policies Must Be Priorities in 2016

A Legislative Column by Assemblyman Will Barclay
The 2016 legislative session is under way in Albany.

In years past, session usually began with the governor delivering his State of the State Address, which traditionally is followed, a few weeks later, by his budget address.

The governor, in a departure from protocol, has again this year decided to combine his State of the State Address with his budget address.

Presumably, Governor Cuomo will set forth his 2016 policy proposals in his speech and, at the same time, release his 2016 proposed state budget, which will lay out how he plans to pay for these proposals.

There are a number of issues that the governor ought to focus on in his address, and first among them is the Upstate economy.

While Governor Cuomo, in partnership with the legislature, has over the last several years tried to address some of the economic challenges that we face upstate, much more needs to be done.

The citizens of New York continue to be among the highest-taxed citizens in the nation. Moreover, our state has a burdensome regulatory scheme.

The combination of high taxes and onerous regulations has limited economic expansion.

This, in turn, has limited employment opportunities and entrepreneurship.

I hope the governor addresses the issue by proposing tax reform that will provide some additional relief from the onerous tax burden we all face.

As has been past history, however, he should not link tax reform with expensive mandates on businesses and employers.

One proposal that is being floated is raising the state minimum wage to $15 an hour.

This would be a 66 percent increase over the current $9 an hour state minimum wage.

If such a proposal became law, it would cancel out any tax relief the governor may propose, leaving us in the same, or perhaps worse, economic situation than we are in now.

While not necessarily under the direct purview of the governor, ethics also must be addressed in this 2016 legislative session.

The conviction of former Speaker Sheldon Silver brought to light the control the Speaker had over the Assembly chamber.

It would have been more challenging, if not impossible, for Silver to commit the crimes he committed without the power he had amassed over his twenty plus years as Speaker.

To address this and encourage better government generally, we should change the rules of the Assembly by imposing term limits on leadership and make it easier for rank-and-file members to get legislation to the floor of the Assembly for a vote.

Moreover, any ethics complaints against a member of the Assembly should be vetted by an independent ethics committee that is truly independent of the Speaker.

Lastly, in light of the potential closure of the FitzPatrick Nuclear plant, the governor should put forth a plan that would appropriately value nuclear generated power.

The state needs to recognize that if we truly want to limit our carbon emissions while at the same time continue to generate the necessary amounts of electricity we need as New Yorkers, it can only be accomplished by keeping all the nuclear generators, like FitzPatrick, operating in New York.

Moreover, keeping FitzPatrick open is critical to the Upstate economy because a closure would mean a loss of 615 jobs and a tremendous loss of economic spinoff.

During this month, I look forward to working with the governor on what can be done through regulations and legislatively in order to ensure that nuclear power is properly valued.

If you have any questions or comments regarding this or any other state issue, please contact me.

My office can be reached by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at [email protected], or by calling (315) 598-5185.

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