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Unshackle Upstate: Budget 'a step backward'

Rochester Business Journal
March 25, 2013

The 2013-14 state budget, which extends an energy tax and raises the minimum wage, is a step backward for New York businesses, the Unshackle Upstate coalition of businesses said Monday.

Unshackle Upstate was among those lobbying for the repeal of the Temporary State Assessment Surcharge—commonly known as the 18a energy tax—included on monthly utility bills.

The surcharge, scheduled to sunset March 31, 2014, was extended for five years in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive budget and included in the budget agreement between Cuomo and the state Legislature.

The extension will cost businesses and consumers nearly $3 billion, Senate Republicans said last money in a statement opposing the fee.

“Unshackle Upstate has been vocal in our opposition to extending the 18a energy tax,” Executive Director Brian Sampson said in a statement. “This is a tax increase (on) businesses and homeowners.

“We have also vehemently opposed an increase in the state’s minimum wage. These actions will undermine efforts to improve the upstate economy.”

The state budget raises the minimum wage of $7.75 per hour to $9 over three years. Hourly pay would rise to $8 by the end of this year, to $8.75 by the end of 2014 and to $9 by the end of 2015.

“Over the past two years, Gov. Cuomo and the Legislature have passed budgets that set the state’s economy on the right path,” Sampson said. “Unfortunately for upstate taxpayers and employers, the new New York looks a lot like the old New York.”

Sandra Parker, president and CEO of the Rochester Business Alliance Inc., expressed similar displeasure as the Legislature began voting on budget bills this week.

“The past two years, we have had real reason to celebrate the New York State budget,” Parker said in a statement released Monday. “This year, not so much.”

“Closing the $1.3 billion budget deficit, paying off the state’s unemployment insurance debt to the federal government and securing a third round of regional economic development competition funding are all praiseworthy accomplishments. However, extending both the 18a energy surcharge and the personal income tax adds to our state’s already heavy tax burden.”

Those actions threaten economic growth, job creation, and the ability to attract and retain talent, Parker said.

“Fortunately, there is still time in this legislative session to make a difference.  Our state leaders need to return to a much more vigorous reform agenda focused on reducing the burdensome mandates and regulations that make New York uncompetitive.”

The budget formally was agreed to over the weekend. Cuomo’s office released a statement last Thursday touting the budget as being on time for the third consecutive year, limiting the increase in spending by less than 2 percent and with tax cuts totaling $800 million for small businesses over three years.

Unshackle Upstate supports some elements of the budget, including reforms to the state unemployment insurance and workers compensation programs, and a tax reduction for manufacturers, Sampson said.

“But overall, this budget is a disappointment,” the Irondequoit resident said. “The reality is that New Yorkers will remain over-burdened and over-taxed.”

(c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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