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Assemblyman says state budget needs to provide more relief to upstate, small businesses

Posted 12 March 2015 at 12:00 am

Editor:

As we dive deeper into this year’s budget negotiations, I remain troubled by the early information regarding the Assembly’s one-house budget. There appears to be little focus on the needs of upstate. Early indications are that the Assembly Majority will focus on minimum wage hikes and a large increase in school aid from Gov. Cuomo’s proposed Executive Budget. While these initiatives may help certain groups, they are not the solution for upstate New York.

Downstate politicians are continuing pass laws that place costs on local governments without the state contributing a dime. These are called unfunded mandates and they are the driving force behind rising property, school and local taxes.

What Albany doesn’t understand is that when municipalities can’t afford mandates, they must raise taxes on their residents to cover the costs. This process happens almost every year and is something I have been fighting for years. I sponsor several bills, including the New York state property taxpayers protection act, that would suspend or permanently end this fiscal assault on our school districts and local governments.

The upstate economy has not fully recovered and our businesses are still hindered by the plethora of regulation and taxes placed on them by our government over the years. As a longtime small-business owner, I know the daily struggles of competing in New York’s suffocating economic climate.

If New York is truly to be “Open for Business” we need to cut taxes, fees and regulations to allow our businesses to hire more employees, reinvest profits and remain in New York State. Our enacted budget has routinely ignored small business development and I will continue to work with the governor and legislative leaders to prevent that from happening again.

My district, as well as many areas in upstate New York, contains a multitude of farms and agriculture producers. Most legislators do not grasp the importance of farms because they are from downstate and lack firsthand experience.

I grew up on a family-owned farm and can tell you that farmers are some of the most genuine hardworking people on the planet. Their determination and skill feeds the rest of the state. I have fought to include funding for aspiring farmers and crop production in previous budgets and I pledge to continue my unwavering support this budget cycle.

Another top priority of mine remains ethics reform. The arrest and demise of former Speaker Silver has left a sour taste in the mouths of many legislators and citizens of the state. If ethics reform is ever going to pass, this year is the best chance we have. I have been calling for the forfeiture of pensions from corrupt politicians and tougher campaign finance requirements for years.

Gov. Cuomo has made a point to emphasize ethics reforms as part of his Executive Budget proposal and I would support his reforms and an even more comprehensive package should they be included in this year’s budget. We owe it to ourselves and the citizens of New York to hold our government to a higher standard.

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley
Batavia