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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 ongoing fiscal problems. Basic fiscal reforms are essential to returning 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 economy, we must reduce costs for job creators, taxpayers, local government and school districts. 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 2013 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. In Westchester County we have 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 2013.
In addition to Mandate Relief it is incumbent on our state leaders to:
- 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. We urge 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.
- Redefine compulsory arbitration: The current binding arbitration 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 add transparency to the arbitration process by having the proceedings of the arbitration panels subject to the Open meeting Law.
- Reduce the costs of construction on public/private projects: The State must reduce the cost of construction in both the public and private sectors by adopting the following measures that will help spur building and development such as: supporting alternative project delivery methods like design build, repealing the Wicks Law, reforming the Scaffold Law, and adopting the Public Construction Savings Act.
- Freeze step increases when contracts expire: The state must repeal the Triborough Amendment, which allows public employees’ pay to continue to increase under an expired contract which places huge burdens on school districts and municipalities.
- 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 something to their health care costs. In Westchester County, the health care cost for public employees continues to increase each year. Since most taxpayers are already contributing to their health costs this common sense change should not be seen as a burden to public employees and retirees.
- Prohibit new mandates: The state should not impose any new mandates on municipalities, school districts and taxpayers. We support the passage of the Unfunded Mandate Reform Act (S.5379/A.8150) and requiring a super-majority to add new unfunded mandates would also be helpful. The Business Council of Westchester urges the Governor’s Mandate Relief Task Force to introduce a legislative package that the state legislature can take up during the 2013 legislative session.
- The State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process has been widely seen as causing serious delays to getting projects done in a timely manner, and causing local municipalities the opportunity to loose 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 seen 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 not be subject to needless delays and will have definitive timelines and deadlines in place from the start of the process.
- Passing legislation that would allow PublicPrivate Partnerships (P3s) to be adopted in New York State. The Business Council of Westchester has held multiple sessions with Senator Greg Ball to learn from experts in other states who have successfully adopted similar legislation. We support the concept of public-private partnerships as another tool to help create economic development in Westchester County.
- The Business Council of Westchester calls on Governor Cuomo’s Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission to aggressively review the work of each state agency and look for structural and operational changes that will streamline the organizational structure of state Government. SAGE must identify state agencies, commissions and authorities that have overlapping missions and create a shared services model that will help create savings to the state. In addition SAGE should develop metrics and targets to help improve performance and make government more open, transparent and accountable. It is important that the SAGE Commission, now under the leadership of Lt. Governor Robert Duffy outline their priorities during this year’s legislative session.
- 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 2013-14 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 a large court judgment and could not afford to post the necessary bond required in order to appeal the 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 proviso would ensure that New York State continues to receive the significant revenue that the settlement generates.
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