Monthly Archives: January 2013

Small manufacturers speaking out about sequester cut

Under the headline, “As Sequestration Looms, Contractors Don’t Fret,” the Washington Post (1/30, Censer, Tankersley) reports that “small manufacturers who supply the larger contractors are beginning to speak out about how sequester cuts would affect their businesses, said Chad Moutray, the chief economist at the National Association of Manufacturers. Moutray said he holds out hope that Wednesday’s report on gross domestic product – and the large effects of spending cuts it showed – will push Democrats and Republicans back to the bargaining table to find a sequester alternative. ‘Hopefully, this is a little bit of a wake-up call,’ he said. ‘This is real. Government spending contracted 1.2 percent of GDP. That’s a big hit, and it’s just the beginning.'”

Cuomo announces continued growth at Roswell Park Cancer Institute with Regional Economic Development Council funding

This from the Governor’s press office – “Governor Cuomo today announced that a strategic biotechnology project in Western New York, initially funded through the Regional Economic Development Councils, is expanding successfully, leveraging additional private investments for further growth and strengthening the regional economy.  The Center for Personalized Roswell Park LogoMedicine (CPM), an extension of Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI), has leveraged $18.5 million in additional investments from an initial State investment of $5.1 million. The new Center treats cancer patients with personalized medical care and also creates a resource that scientists and medical providers can use for applications across the spectrum of clinical care, to the benefit of healthcare consumers all over the United States.   

Roswell Park Cancer Institute received $5.1 million in State assistance for this project through the Western New York Regional Council in December 2011.  A centerpiece of the Governor’s strategy to jumpstart the economy and create jobs, Regional Economic Development Councils were put in place in 2011 to redesign the state’s approach to economic development from a top-down model to a community-based, performance-driven approach. The initiative empowers community, business, and academic leaders, as well as members of the public in each region of the state, to develop strategic plans specifically tailored to their region’s unique strengths and resources in order create jobs and support economic growth.”

To read more click here.

The Business Council elects three new board members and new vice chair

The Business Council of New York State’s Board of Directors at its January board meeting elected three new members, Marissa Shorenstein, President, New York State, AT&T, Inc., Christopher Booth,v and Eric Allyn, Co-Chairman, Board of Directors Welch Allyn Inc . At the same meeting James Gerace, the Vice President – New York Region for Verizon Communications, Inc. was elected to serve as an officer of The Business Council.

Business Council Board Meeting

“These three extraordinary individuals will be a great asset to The Business Council as we work to create good jobs and strong communities in New York,” said Heather Briccetti, president & CEO of The Business Council of New York State.

“Jim Gerace has been a valuable member of our board, and we look forward to the insight and leadership he will bring as a vice chair of The Business Council,” added Briccetti.

To read the full release that includes bios for all four individuals click here.

Minimum wage proposal stirring some sharp debate

Don Glynn of the Niagara Gazette writes – “It’s not a done deal by any means but there’s reason to think the state lawmakers are seriously weighing the possibility of passing Gov. Cuomo’s proposal to raise the minimum wage. 

The governor did not appear to push for raising the minimum wage until almost the end of the 2012 legislative session. At the time, the Republican-controlled state Senate opposed the measure, citing an adverse impact on small business owners. It would, in effect, “kill” jobs as some lawmakers contended.

That’s precisely how Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos of Long Island viewed the proposal to raise the wage to $8.75 per hour from $7.25. By advancing that plan as early as the past month, the governor is basically allowing the Republicans to either accept the idea or — in the worst case scenario — turn down the entire state spending plan. Still, Skelos is concerned that small business owners not be hurt by the wage hike.

Ken Pokalsky, who heads (government affair for) the New York State Business Council, notes that if the minimum wage proposal comes to fruition, it probably will result in some people losing their jobs. Others could find their weekly hours reduced. The council has estimated that new wage scale could cost the average business some $3,000 a year per worker.”

To read more click here.

Pokalsky tell Bloomberg News – Report backed by unions was a jumbled message

In an article by Jerry Silverman of Bloomberg News (BNA), Ken Pokalsky, Vice President for Government Affairs said of a new report backed by unions looking to overhaul the tax system to put a great burden on New Yorks business – “It is not new, and not surprising that public employee unions want to raise taxes and increase governmental spending. Their objective is clear, but their message is jumbled – “help NY create jobs” but renege on tax credits for business investing and creating jobs; “level the playing field” for small business, but raise income taxes that small business pays, etc. 

Ken Pokalsky, Vice President of Government Affairs, The Business Council of New York State, Inc.

 

Business directly pays about one-third of all state and local taxes in New York State – income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, energy taxes, etc. They also create the wealth that allows them to pay employees who pay the rest of the taxes. New York has long trailed the nation in creating good-paying jobs, and raising business taxes hardly helps improve New York’s competitiveness.”

The union backed coalition is proposing specific reforms in a number of areas including:

• No Tax Subsidies for Companies that Outsource Jobs

• No Free Lunch for Big Multi-State & Multinational Corporations

• Tax Breaks for Creating Jobs – Not for Eliminating Them

• Press “Pause” on Tax Cuts and Impose Gap Elimination Adjustments for Corporate Tax Breaks

• Tax Fairness for Romney-Style Investors

The article appears  on page H-3 in Bloomberg BNA’s Daily Report for Executives. (subscription based)

Promise of natural gas key to future

The following is a commentary on natural gas development in New York. It was written by Bob Poloncic, chairman of the Vestal Gas Coalition in Vestal, Broome County. It appears in this morning’s Times Union:

There’s a wall along New York’s southern border that’s dividing us against each other. Built with fear and misinformation about natural gas development, this hollow wall casts a shadow over our economic future. But with little foundation in reality, it can’t stand up to mounting evidence of the safety and widely shared benefits of a responsible local natural gas industry.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo promised a science-based decision, and the reliable science is in. Yet the wall still stands — propped up by politics and blocking opportunity where it’s needed most.

Patient Southern Tier residents must stand up for their rights and demand action: Gov. Cuomo, tear down this wall!

Despite more delay to study “unknown” health effects of shale gas development, state officials have known the facts for months. A Feb. 2012 review from New York’s Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah states that “significant adverse impacts on human health are not expected from routine HVHF (hydrofracking) operations.”

Contrary to every significant charge leveled by opponents, the unreleased review finds that “the state’s proposed regulations would prevent any potential health risks from air emissions, water contamination, and radioactive materials unearthed during the drilling process.”

The proposed safeguards under the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement are even stronger.

Concerned about economic health?

According to U.S. Department of Labor statistics for 2001-2011, employment in Broome, Tioga and Chemung counties declined by 8.6 percent. But just over the Pennsylvania border in Susquehanna and Bradford counties, it increased by 5.2 percent.

From 2008 to 2011, as gas drilling activity surged, total wages paid rose by 28 percent. In the Southern Tier counties, wages were stagnant. In 2012, Bradford County government received $8.4 million in tax revenue from gas production, enabling a 5.9 percent cut in 2013 property taxes and a 4.5 percent pay raise for county employees.

Worried about climate change?

Experienced researchers, including Cornell’s Lawrence Cathles, conclude that replacing coal with clean natural gas for electricity production will significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions over both the short and long term. It has already reduced U.S. carbon emissions below 1995 levels.

Experts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology report in the journal Environmental Research Letters that claims of potential increased warming from escaped gas at well sites rely on an “unreasonable assumption.”

Thruway Authority plans 234 layoffs, cites $20M savings

Gannett’s Joseph Spector reported on planned layoffs at the Thruway Authority:

ALBANY— The state Thruway Authority said Wednesday that it plans to lay off 234 employees amid its fiscal woes.

The layoffs come as the Thruway Authority seeks to pare costs after deciding last month to drop plans for a 45 percent toll increase on truck traffic on the 570-mile thoroughfare. [Note: The Business Council successfully lobbied against the increase. Click here to see the statement we released following the announcement that the Thruway Authority would not raise tolls on commercial vehicles.]

“There are ongoing fiscal challenges that we face, and further budget savings are necessary,” Thruway spokesman Daniel Weiller said.

The Thruway has 2,968 employees, including at the state Canal Corp. The layoffs would affect both agencies — 192 at the Thruway and 42 at the canal system — and impact the authority’s operations statewide. Workers were notified late Tuesday.

The Thruway’s finances have been troubled amid a decline in traffic and needed repairs to the road, which runs from the Hudson Valley through western New York.

Click here to read more.

State leaders hold first meeting on expanding casino gambling

Tom Precious posted the following story for The Buffalo News:

ALBANY – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders met for the first time Wednesday to discuss plans to dramatically expand casino gambling in New York but came away in agreement that there is still much work ahead.

The sides did tentatively resolve some issues, including agreeing that a new state gambling commission will select developers if new casinos are permitted and vowing that voters will know ahead of any statewide referendum, possibly this fall, what counties will be eligible for at least the first phase of any new Las Vegas-style gambling halls. But when asked for other specifics, lawmakers and Cuomo were mum.

“Evolving is the word of the day if you haven’t noticed,” Cuomo told reporters as he sat alongside three legislative leaders following a 90-minute meeting in his Capitol office.

A decision on where precisely any new casinos might be located is weeks or months away, though the sides mostly seem to agree that the Catskills – once a major resort destination that has fallen on hard times in recent decades – is in the running.

Whether Western New York will be eligible remains uncertain because the Seneca Nation and the state have an 11-year-old compact giving the tribe exclusive rights to operate casino gambling in a huge portion of the region stretching some 100 miles from Buffalo to Route 14 east of Rochester and from Lake Ontario to the Pennsylvania line. Cuomo has suggested the state will honor that compact, but that could depend on the outcome of the years-old dispute, now in arbitration, that has seen the Seneca Nation withhold more than $500 million in casino revenue-sharing payments to Albany for what it claims has been a breach of that compact.

Click here to read more.

New York’s slipping pension fund

Greg David, reporter for Crain’s New York Business, posted the following story:

Okay, the headline is a bit alarmist, but as Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushes his plan to reduce costs for local governments by slashing their required payments to the state pension funds, it is important to understand exactly how solid the state’s pension system is.

This is a big and complicated issue and I’ll be writing about for the next couple of days, including Monday’s print and online column.

Below are the best funded state pension systems as calculated by the Pew Center on the States, the best source of comparative data.

New York’s Pension Fund Compared
% of pension liabilities funded

NY Slipping Pension Chart
 

 

 

 

 

 

So, in just one year New York slipped from the No. 1, a position it had held for sometime, to No.  5.

The governor’s rationale is that the new, lower-cost pension benefits for new workers he pushed through the Legislature will cut required contributions later in the decade. So he wants to take the benefits now to deal with the fiscal crises faced by many upstate cities, towns and school districts.

True, we are still a long way from Illinois and California, which are at the bottom of the Pew ranking with less than 1% of their liability set aside. However, the governor’s plan will push New York way down this list.

Is that really a good thing?

Finding ways to make the University of Buffalo a more prestigious place

UB 2020 progressing

Dan Miner, reporter for Buffalo Business First, posted the following story on plans for the future of the University of Buffalo, a long-time members of The Business Council:

What might be called “The January Sessions” regarding an updated UB 2020 plan came and went on Jan. 23 and 24, with UB Provost Charles Zukoski addressing the university community and asking for feedback.

What’s at stake? The future of UB.

Read UB Reporter coverage of the sessions here. The Reporter is produced by UB communications staff.

Years of work went into the 2020 plans before state budget crises forced massive cuts in higher education, effectively cutting the legs out of the ambitious plan. But with an annual plan to raise tuition and stabilized financial situation, the 2020 plans are back on.

Read a recent Business First article on the endeavor here.

But the plan will be a new one, with the general focus: finding ways to make UB a more prestigious place, with more effective academic programs. The specific initiative and areas of focus are still in development.

A few chronological notes from the Reporter story:

• The public comment period will close in February.

• Draft outlines on how to implement the plans come out a short time later and be available until mid-March.

• A final statement of institutional direction is expected by mid-March.

Dan Miner is Business First’s enterprise reporter. He also covers education and public companies.