Norris votes against state budget, saying it makes bad business environment even worse

Posted 3 May 2023 at 6:58 am


New York state is ranked worst in the nation for business climate – and worse, now we’re being ranked No. 1 in population loss too. There have been warning signs for some time as more than ten years ago Western New York was just ahead of New Orleans in terms of worst metro areas to do business.

Most reasonable people would recognize there is a serious problem here and we must make systematic changes to improve our business climate by reducing our tax burden, cutting back burdensome regulations and making proper investments in our infrastructure to rebuild.

Unfortunately, the downstate-driven majorities who control state government continue to put their heads in the sand and just hope that spending billions of dollars will make this crisis disappear. Coming in at a record $229 billion, this bloated budget is simply too expensive for hardworking New York families, business owners and farmers to afford. Under one-party rule, in the last five years alone, state spending has increased by $64 billion. To put that in perspective, this increase is more than 35 state budgets in our union. States like Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee are not only offering lower tax rates and lower energy costs, but they also offer better incentives to do business and build a home and that is why we are seeing thousands of New Yorkers leaving for these areas.

To make matters even worse, this state budget was filled with major policies that will hurt our economy even more. It raises the minimum wage, which places our business owners at a competitive disadvantage. It raises taxes by another $562 million. And it bans the use of natural gas, which threatens jobs in industries like manufacturing, construction and transportation, and it restricts its use on new construction builds starting in 2025.

On top of all this, the budget was held up for more than a month so bail reform could be negotiated, and after listening to the debate on this topic, it became quite clear these minor language tweaks are simply window dressing and will do little to improve public safety in our communities.

Because 47% of employers in our region consider themselves pessimistic about a future in New York, something needs to be done – and that’s why I remain focused on promoting investments in our infrastructure, workforce development and public protection. Though these are drops in the overall budget bucket, I would like to update you on some of the silver linings in this dark cloud:

  • As the new ranking member of the Transportation Committee, I advocated hard for local infrastructure funding, and I am pleased to report a $60 million increase in funding for the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS), which will support our roads, bridges and culverts.
  • I’ve also advocated for proper library funding, and this budget includes a restoration of $34 million for our library construction aid.
  • As the co-chair of the Assembly Minority Task Force on Learning for Work, I’ve fought passionately for workforce development initiatives like expanding P-TECH and providing more support for BOCES, and both items were enhanced in this budget.
  • The budget contains a $6.5 million increase in funding for training stipend reimbursements for our dedicated volunteer fire companies; and
  • A new First-Time Homebuyer Program and expansion of the Child Care Tax Credit will also help Western New York families afford to stay and live here.

When we talk about state spending, I’ve rallied for a “back to basics” approach. These are some of the back-to-basics proposals I’ve advocated for that I was pleased to see. But these are modest funding appropriations when you consider the billions in excess spending that goes primarily downstate and is largely unaccounted for.

Businesses and households all across our state, but especially in Western New York, have been tightening their belts for years – it’s time Albany starts doing the same. That’s why I voted “no” on the overall state budget for the fifth year in a row. The state must re-focus itself, get back to funding basic priorities and reign in its excess spending as the current approach is not working and driving folks right out of here.

Assemblyman Mike Norris


(Norris serves as the Chairman of the Assembly Minority Conference. He represents the 144th Assembly District, which includes portions of Erie and Niagara counties.)