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Fiscal Reform

The Business Council of Westchester continues to take a leadership role on calling for the adoption of necessary steps that are needed to solve the state’s structural and ongoing fiscal problems. Broad-based fiscal reforms are essential to “right-sizing” the state’s budget to a sustainable level in order for New York to increase its economic growth and create jobs for the future.

As a critical element of rebuilding our New York’s economy, the state must reduce cost for job creators, taxpayers, local government and school districts in New York State. To that end, The Business Council of Westchester will forcefully continue to advocate the New York State Legislature to adopt strong mandate relief legislation during the 2014 Legislative Session.

Presently there are too many state laws and regulations that contribute to the high cost
of local government, which are passed down to business owners. Westchester County has seen costs driven up due to the numerous unfunded mandates that are handed down by state government. Albany must control state spending and lower the combined tax burden on individuals and businesses and make Mandate Relief a top priority in 2014.

In addition to Mandate Relief it is incumbent on the State Legislature to:

  1. Make the pension system more predictable and affordable. The state has to allow local governments and school districts the ability to manage their current and future pension costs. The Council urges the creation of a plan that allows employees the option of a reduced (affordable) defined benefit plan and defined contribution plan that is controlled by the employees and does not unduly burden taxpayers.
     
  2. Redefine compulsory arbitration: the current binding system is not affordable and must be fixed. The state must consider the financial capacity of local taxpayers when compulsory arbitration awards are issued. This can be done by prohibiting consideration of non-compensation in all cases and adding transparency to the arbitration process by having the proceedings of the arbitration panels subject to the open meeting law.
     
  3. Reduce the cost of construction on public-private projects; the State must reduce the cost of construction in both public and private sectors by repealing the Wicks Law and reforming the Public Construction Act.
     
  4. Reform the Scaffold Law. Presently, New York is the only state in the country that holds property owners, employers and contractors absolutely liable for “gravity related” injuries that happen on the job. That means there is virtually no defense from a lawsuit even if the worker’s gross negligence contributed to the accident. As the law stands now, even parties that had no supervisory control over the work are held liable. New York’s general liability insurance costs are between 300% and 1,200% higher then other states because of the Scaffold Law. Reforming the law would reduce the cost of every construction project, saving taxpayer dollars, creating jobs and spurring development. It is important to note that reforming the Scaffold Law would not prevent injured workers from suing for their injuries. In 2013 The Business Council of Westchester met with every member of the county’s state legislative delegation both in Albany and their district offices on this issue, urging them to make the necessary reforms to this law.

  5. Establish minimum health insurance contribution levels for employees and retirees: it is time to enact sensible legislation that would require public employees and retirees to contribute to their health care costs. In Westchester County, the health care costs for public employees continue to increase each year. Since most taxpayers are already contributing to their health costs, this conmon sense change should not be seen as a burden to public employees and retirees and reflects the reality of health care in current times.

  6. Prohibit new mandates: The state should not impose any new mandates on
    municipalities, school districts and taxpayers. The Business Council of Westchester supports the passage of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (S.5379/A8150), which requires a super-majority vote to add new unfunded
    mandates. The Business Council also urges the Governor’s mandate Relief Task Force to continue to introduce additional legislation during the 2014 legislative session that focuses on specific mandates that are detrimental to local municipalities.

  7. The State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process has been widely seen as causing serous delays to getting projects completed in a timely manner, and causing local municipalities the opportunity to lose economic development projects that bring jobs and causes a negative effect on the area’s economy in general. It is imperative that many of the rules and regulations under SEQR be amended and in some cases eliminated. There also needs to be more transparency in the SEQR process in order to build a stronger sense of confidence to developers that want to start a project in New York State. Those developers need to know that they will have definitive timelines and deadlines in place from the start of the process.

  8. Passing legislation that would allow Public Private Partnerships (P3s) to be adopted in New York State. The Business Council of Westchester has participated in multiple working sessions with Senator Greg Ball to learn from experts in other states, who have successfully adopted similar legislation, which helped in drafting the legislation. The Business Council of Westchester supports Senator Ball’s P3s legislation (S.5501 which will enable New York State to be on the forefront of the public-private partnerships, by authorizing private entities to design, build, finance, operate and maintain public infrastructure assets including the new Tappan Zee Bridge). Private Public Partnership would boost the economy in Westchester County by producing meaningful employment.

  9. The Business Council of Westchester calls on Governor Cuomo’s Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission now chaired by Lt. Governor Duffy to aggressively review the work of each state agency to look for structural and operationalchanges that will streamline the organizational structure of State Government. SAGE must identify state agencies, commissions and authorities that have overlapping missions and create savings to the state. In addition SAGE should develop metrics and targets to help improve performance and makes government more open, transparent and accountable. It is important that the SAGE Commission outline their priorities during this year’s legislative session. 

    BCW President and CEO Marsha Gordon at announcement of Tax Free NY program on May 23.

  10. The Business Council of Westchester has urged the Governor and the State Legislature to help protect New York’s share of the Master Settlement Agreement revenue by including a provision in the 2014 Executive Budget that would limit the State’s appeal bond requirement for Master Settlement signatories to $100 million. This legislation is critically important to safeguard the financial stability of New York State and local municipalities, as well as creating a healthy business environment. In 2012 New York received over $737 million in master Settlement Agreement monies which was then shared by state and local municipalities, this vital source of revenue would be threatened if Master settlement Agreement signatories should face Council of a large court judgment Westchester has and could not afford been in the fore-to post the necessary front of educating bond required in order to appeal the the business decision. By having an appeal bond cap those companies would have the ability to meet their Master Settlement Agreement payment obligations during the appeal process. The appeal bond cap provison would ensure that New York State continues to receive the significant revenue that the settlement generates.

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