Category Archives: Advocacy

Even California knows better

Several recent anti-business measures of note followed a similar path: a liberally-minded west coast jurisdiction (usually San Francisco or Seattle) passes the legislation at the local level, and it is then passed statewide, before eventually making its way to the New York City Council and our state Legislature. We saw this most recently with the $15 an hour minimum wage and Paid Family Leave.

One recent effort actually started with the federal government before trickling down to New York State. Earlier this year, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 162. The order requires, among other things, state contractors of any size to submit reports to the state on their pay practices, broken down according to the gender and racial makeup of their workforce. The Executive Order mandates that most contractors submit their data quarterly, with contractors and subcontractors on construction projects required to report monthly. While New York’s order was modeled after a similar program on the federal level, the federal order was less onerous and has been stayed under the current administration.

You may be wondering why we referenced the west coast. Well, just last week California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a similar piece of legislation for numerous reasons, including saying: “…it is unclear that the bill as written, given its ambiguous wording, will provide data that will meaningfully contribute to efforts to close the gender wage gap.” We would further note that the vetoed California legislation was far less onerous than New York’s, requiring that only employers with 500 or more employees submit said data, and that such data only be reported every other year.

New York’s mandate is far more broad and raises additional concerns, including:

– requiring pay data reports on a quarterly basis for most state contractors (all contracts valued at more than $25,000), and monthly for construction contracts valued at more than $100,000, compared to the annual reports required under the now-stayed federal EEO-1, and the biennial reports that would have been  required under the new California law.

– requiring pay data from all subcontractors as well, regardless of the value of subcontract, and it can require contractors to assure compliance by, or even mandate that they collect pay data from, their subcontractors.  This will put employers in the difficult position of having to submit confidential pay data to competitor firms.

– unlike the federal initiative,  which was adopted through a formal rulemaking process, or the California proposal that was passed by the state legislature, New York’s proposal was launched by an executive order issued with no notice, and with no input from affected employers.  Since it was not subject to the state Administrative Procedures Act, as a formal rulemaking would be, it had a limited 30 day public comment period, and did not require the state to do an impact assessment or consider alternative compliance measures for small business.

– while the federal EE0-1 required pay data to be reported by broad occupational categories, the state requires reports by one of more than 800 occupational titles, dramatically increasing compliance efforts and costs  (and, remember, under the New York State program, this is a monthly or quarterly, not annual, report.)

– the “granularity” of the state pay data reports will allow for the identification of individual’s pay level, as well as details about an employer’s general pay practice, but there is nothing in the Executive Order that provides legal protection against public disclosure of this confidential business and personal data.

To the administration’s credit, they have been willing to listen to concerns raised by The Business  Council and others – yet the order remains in place. We hope the recent action in California will prompt New York State officials to take a second look at EO 162 and make significant adjustments, or better yet, scrap the program entirely.

Op-Ed on Workers’ Comp

Ten years ago business and labor got together on what was announced as an historic update to our state’s costly and woefully outdated workers’ compensation system. While significant reforms were made then, a decade’s worth of hindsight has shown that our comp system remains expensive, slow, a costly burden on employers and ill-equipped at serving injured workers. In short, comp is in crisis. With costs reaching more than $10 billion per year, and municipalities shouldering an increasing financial burden, the time to reform comp has come again.

Thankfully, earnest and meaningful discussions are occurring among the interested parties and there is a real chance we could see something done as part of this year’s budget. We believe that significant cost savings can be achieved without impacting wage replacement or medical care for injured workers. In fact, our recommendations would ensure that the most severely injured employees receive the compensation they deserve. Our aim is to fix a system that relies on outdated impairment guidelines as the basis for issuing high payments to employees who are missing little or no time from their jobs. Meanwhile, severely injured workers are at the mercy of a system that stretches out hearings for months and final judgement for years.

The facts are clear; ninety percent of upstate business leaders want to see real, meaningful changes to the workers’ comp system, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and from both houses are pushing for reform, and all sides recognize changes need to be made.

We’re proud to be a part of a growing coalition made up of more than 200 municipal groups, business organizations and other trade associations and businesses calling for commonsense reforms that will put New York more in line with our fellow states and make our state more competitive.

Reforming workers’ compensation and developing a better system that protects injured workers, while eliminating, outdated, and unnecessary cost drivers, will be a boon for New York State and help spur job creation, foster economic development, and lower property taxes. We urge inclusion of these cost-saving measures in this year’s final enacted budget.

Behind the Q-Poll

Most pollsters will tell you, how you ask the question can impact the answer. What they don’t always mention is the result can often significantly alter the public narrative on an issue.

Last week’s Quinnipiac University poll is a perfect example. Their press release claimed “New York poll found voters back $15 minimum wage,” and in their first poll question, “Would you support or oppose raising the state’s minimum wage to $15.00 an hour over the next several years?” participants agreed, 62 to 35%. The headline in a number of media outlets was, Q poll shows support for Governor’s $15 minimum wage proposal.

But that poll had a second minimum wage question, and the response has been largely ignored by the media.

It asked: Which of four options “…comes closest to your point of view regarding raising the state’s minimum wage,”?

  • No increase
  • an increase but less than $15
  • an increase to $15
  • or an increase above $15

For this question, 49% preferred something less than $15, slightly more than the 48% who preferred $15 or higher. Interestingly, for upstate respondents, 61% supported an increase under $15, including 13% who chose no increase. When given a range of choices, the Q-poll found that New Yorkers in fact are split on the $15 per hour proposal.

Then there is this opinion piece in yesterday’s NY Post. Michael Saltsman, from the Employment Policy Institute, used Google’s Consumer Survey tool to survey 504 New Yorkers. He first asked about a $15 per hour minimum wage, and – similar to Quinnipiac – found a support rate of 57%. But when they asked whether New Yorker’s would support that policy if it would cause some less-skilled employees to lose their jobs, the results flipped to 57% in opposition. When asked how they’d feel about a $15 minimum wage if it would cause some small businesses to close, 67% opposed it.

No doubt, there will be numerous studies on the economic impact of a $15 minimum wage. Three west coast cities– Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles – have adopted laws moving toward that figure, and some data are already showing job loss. Stay tuned.

Assembly clarifies SLA authority

Earlier today, the New York State Assembly passed A.5920. The legislation, supported by The Business Council, clarifies the State Liquor Authority’s (SLA) ability to penalize licensees in certain situations.

The bill, born out of dispute between a Capital Region retailer and the SLA, would clarify the SLA’s legal authority in enforcing the laws of another state. More specifically, it would remove the ambiguity that exists in current law and end the perception of selective enforcement.

The alcohol industry remains a vital and growing part of the New York State economy, providing tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity. A predictable regulatory environment will help ensure this important industry remains strong and continues to experience the growth we have seen in recent years.

We applaud the state Assembly for passing this legislation and encourage the state Senate to do the same.

New study touts benefit of Indian Point

The National Energy Institute (NEI) is out with a new study, released today, that highlights the financial impact of the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester County.

According to the NEI’s study, which can be downloaded here, Indian Point pumps $1.6 billion into the state’s economy each year. The same study says the plant contributes an additional $900 million to the nation’s economy.

From the study:

“Indian Point’s annual spending creates a huge ripple effect in the state and nationwide: The facility’s operation generates $1.3 billion of annual economic output in the local counties, $1.6 billion statewide and $2.5 billion across the United States. The study finds that for every dollar of output from Indian Point, the local economy produces $1.27, the state economy produces $1.55 and the U.S. economy produces $2.48.

Entergy provides higher-than-average wages at Indian Point: Entergy directly employs approximately 1,000 people at Indian Point. Because they are technical in nature, these jobs typically are higher-paying. This direct employment leads to another 2,800 indirect jobs in surrounding counties and 1,600 in other industries in New York for a total 5,400 jobs in-state. There are an additional 5,300 indirect jobs outside the state for a total of 10,700 jobs throughout the United States.”

The Business Council of New York State, Inc., supports the continued operations of Indian Point, which is essential to the New York State economy. This electrical generation facility provides 2,069 megawatts of baseload power to New York’s electrical grid every single day. Indian Point accounts for up to 11 percent of the power used statewide and 25 percent of the power in both Westchester County and New York City.

Daily News gets it right

Since bursting on to the scene several years ago, Uber and Lyft have upended, or disrupted, the traditional taxi system. If you’re unfamiliar with how these services work, basically you download the company’s app on your smartphone and when you’re looking for a ride you open up the app, make sure it has you in the correct location and then ask for a pickup. The app then alerts the nearest driver that you’re ready to be picked up and in a few minutes you’re on your way. The convenience of both pickup and payment, along with the clean cars and friendly drivers, has made Uber and Lyft very popular.

But, like most emerging technologies, the country’s regulatory agencies have been slow to keep up. There are some legitimate concerns about insurance and licensing and the companies are working to address them. In New York City, the traditional taxi companies have been lobbying hard to have the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) step in and provide stricter regulations of For Hire Vehicle (FHV) apps like Uber and Lyft.

The regulations that have been proposed (read them here) have been met with considerable pushback, not only by the industry, but by business groups like us. The New York City media has been following the story closely and today the Daily News weighed in with an editorial siding with Uber and Lyft. We encourage you to read the whole piece, it’s not too long. But we did want to single out a key section:

“The TLC must recognize that it has no hope of ruling a dynamic and fast-changing market. One telling confirmation:

Consistent with its obligation to know who’s doing what on the streets, the commission demanded to know how many rides Uber’s 17,745 cars provide daily and where they are picking up passengers. Uber provided the data on April 1. The TLC has yet to produce even the most basic analysis of the numbers.”

For now, Uber and Lyft are only allowed to operate in New York City; they are prohibited in the rest of the state. We are working to enact legislation that would make Uber and Lyft available statewide. There’s been a huge push in our home base of the Capital Region. Several well-known restaurateurs have been leading the charge. We believe that Uber and Lyft would be key sources of economic development throughout upstate and remain hopeful we can get this legislation passed.

The Business Council continues fight against governor’s Wage Board move

Earlier this week, Heather C. Briccetti Esq., our president and CEO, was on Capital Tonight with host Liz Benjamin to discuss the growing opposition to Governor Cuomo’s plan to increase the wage of workers in the fast-food industry by convening a Wage Board.

It is our contention that the move, which may technically be legal, is unprecedented, and would usurp the Legislature’s statutory authority to set wage policy in New York State.

Heather Briccetti on Capital Tonight with Liz Benjamin
Credit: Time Warner Cable News, Capital Tonight

When asked by Liz Benjamin if our organization, or others, would look for legal remedies  should the governor go ahead with his plan, Ms. Briccetti had this to say, “I certainly think it’s open to challenge. It appears to be something that should be, rightly, within the realm of the Legislature. Currently the minimum wage is in statute, so you would think to alter it you would need a statutory change.”

We find this latest push to increase the minimum wage especially shortsighted because we are still in the final stages of a three-step wage increase which will see the minimum wage rise to $9 an hour by the end of this year.

If you’re a Time Warner Cable subscriber you can view the full interview here. If not, TWC does allow non-subscribers a limited number of views each month.

Editorial: Ouster of reform-minded Regent puts politics before education

In an editorial, The Buffalo News says the ouster of long-time Western New York Regent Robert M. Bennett is, “a triumph of politics over education.”

Four new members of the Board of Regents were selected earlier this month by the State Legislature. The Regents are selected from regions across the state. Bennett, who had served for 20 years, withdrew his name from consider when it became apparent that he did not have support to be reconfirmed.

Quoting from the editorial:

“The machinations and intrigue that led Robert M. Bennett to withdraw from the effort to retain his seat on the Board of Regents deprive New Yorkers of a true champion of education, an advocate for learning by all students and a passion for the kind of reforms that education needs in New York – no matter how much the teachers unions and their lawmaker lackeys cluck otherwise.

“Bennett said all students can learn. Parents – some of them – said the sky was falling. Bennett said the Common Core learning standards would help make New York students competitive. Teachers and politicians – many of them – said the sky was falling. On Sunday, they ducked.

“With the news that Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo, had engineered the nomination of Buffalo educator Catherine Collins and that new Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie would forward Collins’ name, Bennett bowed out and politics, rather than education, became the dominant consideration.

“Bennett was far and away the best choice for this seat. He deserves the thanks of all New Yorkers for his 20 years of service on the board. That is especially true of Western New Yorkers, whom the Tonawanda resident represented on the Board of Regents. He was perhaps the only public official that New Yorkers could trust implicitly. He had no agenda beyond providing the best possible education for New York students.”

Read the complete editorial here.

Energy tax repeal included in Senate Budget

With a little less than three weeks left before the April 1 deadline for passage of the FY 2016 state budget, both houses of the Legislature have now staked out their positions in one-house budget bills.

As one would expect, the Senate budget focuses more sharply on economic growth and job development. The Business Council was especially pleased to see a provision calling for the full repeal of the 18-a temporary assessment on electricity which adds millions of dollars in costs to all residential and commercial electric rates across the state.

Last week, The Business Council joined with the New York Alliance for Reliable Affordable Energy (NY-AREA) and the Independent Power Producer of New York (IPPNY) to support the repeal of 18-a.

Heather C. Briccetti, president and CEO of The Business Council made the case for repeal of the tax in this interview with NYSNYS.

In statewide TV interview Business Council President and CEO analyzes Governor’s proposed budget

Business Council president and CEO Heather C. Briccetti, Esq. was a recent guest on the Time Warner Cable News interview program Capital Tonight. Host Liz Benjamin’s questions covered a range of issues starting with the Governor’s budget.

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Ms. Benjamin: “The Governor’s budget did seem to be a bit of a mixed bag for business. You have a wide range of members, what do they think of the proposals.”

“This budget represents another year of fiscal responsibility  and to The Business Council that’s a huge positive”

Ms. Briccetti: “There are a lot of positives and I always go back to controlling spending. I was just recently at a meeting of the heads of many of the state chambers of commerce from across the nation and in many cases they are dealing deficits in their states and going into a budget cycle looking at what are the least damaging taxes their states could raise. And we’re not in that position. To me that’s a testament to four consecutive years of spending control. Yes, some of the surplus that the state has is the result of settlements, but some of it the result of fiscal responsibility. This budget represents another year of fiscal responsibility  and to The Business Council that’s a huge positive because it alleviates the need to go looking for new revenue when business in the state is still trying to dig out of the recession.

“The bottom line is raising the minimum wage does not create jobs.”

On the Governor’s proposal to increase the minimum wage:
“The bottom line is raising the minimum wage does not create jobs. It is a disincentive to job creation. If you just look at U.S. Census data for 2013, which is the last year that is available, 60 percent of people who live in poverty don’t have a job. This [raising minimum wage] doesn’t do anything to assist them. In fact, it is counter-productive because it creates pressure on small business to eliminate jobs, because they can’t afford the increased cost of the new minimum wage. So I would argue, let the economy recover. Let the pressure to fill positions drive up wages, which is happening in other states. There are states that have a higher average weekly wage, but don’t have a higher minimum wage—they have the same minimum wage as the Federal government and wages are going up because they have full employment. The problem is that raising the minimum wage has been identified by supporters as a way to eliminate poverty and it is not. The way to end poverty is to create more jobs.”

“I think you have to look at the core issue of job creation.”

On competition-based upstate economic development:
“We support good projects, so I don’t think the alternative of saying ‘we’re just going to each region a fixed amount’ regardless of what kinds of projects they have in the works is a reasonable way to allocate economic development dollars. I think you have to look at economic development projects on kind of an individualized basis. Competition could  exclude good projects because overall that region’s plan isn’t as good as the one next to it would be unfortunate and we’d hate to see that happen.

I think some evaluation of the individual projects rather than the overall package that the region puts up would be good because sometimes they be tempted to add frills to make the package look shinier. And that is maybe unnecessary spending. I think you have to look at the core issue of job creation.”

If the problem is property taxes, then creating subsidies for select groups is not the answer because it doesn’t drive down taxes.”

On the Governor’s proposed property tax plan:
“If the problem is real property taxes and we would agree that it is. It’s the largest tax that most small businesses pay and businesses are the largest property taxpayers in the state. If the problem is property taxes, then creating subsidies for select groups is not the answer because it doesn’t drive down taxes. I think we need to take another hard look at mandate relief [for local government]. The property tax cap will take time but is a good and very effective tool in controlling the growth of property taxes. I agree with the Governor overall in his mission of consolidating layers of local government to start peeling away some of the unnecessary spending that drives up real property taxes, but there’s also a need for mandate relief. Let’s do scaffold law reform that is a substantial burden on everyone, every homeowner, every business, and every municipality.”

You can watch the entire interview here. Please note, a Time Warner Cable subscriber login is required.