It’s official. We have a New York State budget for 2018-19. Not unexpectedly, there is good news and bad news.
The Business Council of Westchester is pleased that some of the issues of importance to our membership were addressed by the Governor and the Legislature in the $168 billion budget passed over the weekend. The 4 a.m. passage coupled with many omissions in the spending plan, however, lead us to have reservations about this budget.
Let’s start with some positives of the new budget:
- It does not raise taxes.
- It includes $24 million to help local communities and the Hendrick Hudson School District that will be severely impacted by the closing of Indian Point. The Indian Point closing poses numerous challenges. The BCW has been vocal regarding the lack of planning for the closing. We will continue to press the Governor and the legislative leadership for concrete answers on how to replace the 25 percent of energy produced for New York State and Westchester that will be lost — without negatively affecting ratepayers
- The push for increasing funding for higher education, particularly for private colleges, that we have supported has been successful. The budget allocates more than $7.6 billion in State support for higher education. This includes $22.9 million for the second phase of the Enhanced Tuition Award program to make college more affordable for residents attending private colleges.
- Two important boosters of economic development in our region are included:
- Funding for New York Youth Jobs that is crucial to workforce development. The BCW, which works closely with the County through its year-round workforce development and summer jobs programs, is pleased that the budget increases employer credits by 50 percent from $500 to $750 per month. This particularly benefits our urban centers of Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, White Plains and Yonkers.
- Funding for the Regional Economic Development Councils. Westchester and the Mid-Hudson Region were big winners last year with a total award of $84.8 million to support 113 projects. In Westchester, 23 projects worth $10.7 million were funded. It was the highest award of any of the ten regions in the state.
- Counter measures to Federal Tax Reform were also adopted. The State has passed a series of measures that would serve to lessen the impact of the loss of State and Local Tax deductions (SALT) under federal tax reforms. We will be watching closely to see if these measures such as expanding charitable deductions for New Yorkers and creating an alternative employer compensation expense program do what they are intended to and meet IRS regulations.
While we applaud these initiatives in the 2018-19 budget, unfortunately they represent the bare minimum of what needs to be done to support economic development in our state. The new budget fails to address mandate relief and long-standing regulatory reforms that are necessary to make our state competitive in bringing in new private sector jobs. Businesses that are looking to relocate or expand in New York need to see that state government is being proactive in removing obstacles and burdens that have a negative impact on their day to day operations. Laws such as the Scaffold Law, substantially increase construction costs and unfairly hold employers and contractors liable for on-the-job injuries. The Scaffold Law costs taxpayers an estimated $785 million each year and the private sector $1.49 billion a year, a tremendous disincentive to businesses looking to relocate. We lose our competitiveness with neighboring states if we allow these regulations to continue to stand.
And while this year’s budget was adopted on time, it was done so at the expense of transparency. Budgets should be passed in the “light of day” not in the early hours of the morning when there is no opportunity for the public to have a clear understanding of the state’s spending plan.
With three months remaining in the 2018 session, the BCW will continue to fight to hold Legislators accountable and press for these necessary reforms.
If you have any questions regarding any part of the budget, please feel free to contact me at JRavitz@thebcw.org.