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Legislative session gets mostly passing grades

Nearly half of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll gave New York’s 2011 legislative session good grades.

The plurality—31 percent—graded the session a B. Fourteen percent graded it an A. By contrast, 19 percent gave the session a failing grade.

Among the items approved were a measure limiting the growth in property taxes to 2 percent a year or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower; ethics reform; a new Article X siting law for power generation; a bill giving SUNY schools authority to hike tuition $500 a year for five years; and legalization of same-sex marriage.

Other items—including pension reform, broad mandate relief and independent redistricting—failed to win approval.

Readers were split on how these changes will affect New York’s business climate. Thirty-six percent say the session will have no effect on the state’s business climate; 36 percent said it will help; and 28 percent said the changes will hurt.

More than 500 readers participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted June 27 and 28.

Overall, how would you grade the 2011 legislative session in Albany?
A: 14% 
B: 31% 
C: 20% 
D: 16% 
F: 19% 

In terms of New York’s business climate, did the 2011 state legislative session help or hurt?
No change: 36% 
Help: 36%
Hurt: 28%

Here are some comments from readers:

I give the legislature a “C”—and a qualified “C,” at that. Primarily because they paid an inordinate amount of attention to gay marriage (a 10 percent minority interest) when the more urgent issues affecting ALL of us (mandate relief, pension reform, etc.) were relegated to next session, if even then. Having said that, they did a heckava lot better than last year and actually made some progress that maybe will result in some belt-tightening we desperately need. Hint to Mr. Cuomo: Look at New Jersey.
—Rick Bradley

I hope that we continue to hear promising news out of Albany, and that this is evidence of more progress to come during Gov. Cuomo’s administration.
—A. Liss, The Center for Governmental Research

Typical. Have more laws that don’t help anything. Nothing was improved for business. Ethics law is a joke “window dressing.”
—Karl Schuler

Difficult economic, political and social decisions were made. This is a big positive for the citizens.
—Mike Bleeg, Strategic Results

Totally and completely incompetent. There is no other word or way to describe it. The fish rots from the head down, from the governor, to the Senate and Assembly.
—Jim Duke, Victor

New York is back! Hope they can keep the momentum.
—Catherine Lewis, Xerox retiree, Fairport

Lots of claims of making progress and politicians congratulating themselves, but I just don’t see any real change. The “tax cap” is so filled with holes, it’s almost meaningless. Our taxes will still go up and will still be the highest in the nation. They didn’t touch the mandates that will still strangle county government and school districts. I guess the good news is that it didn’t get worse, but what has really changed, other than we can now go to gay weddings?
—Bob Sarbane

For the first time in a long time, our legislators worked together to pass a budget and public policies that will benefit the people of New York. The passage of the Marriage Equality Act was a huge step forward and makes me proud to be a New Yorker. I think the governor is doing an outstanding job and I have confidence that New York State will get back on track.
—Judy Goonan, Eastman Kodak Co.

In the game of politics, compromise is not a four-letter word. It was very hopeful seen both sides considering the wishes of the voters rather than focusing on getting re-elected. Mandate relief has to be next.
—Frank Muscato

There seems to be a glimmer of hope for the state of New York; Andrew Como is the best NYS governor since his father was governor. If they can repeat the performance next session, I would be amazed. Lowering the total state taxes to at least what the average state taxes are in our nation and you would see the Rochester area grow and prosper. Kept it up, governor!
—Stanley Hilt

To quote one of my teachers, "this year has shown much improvement." Keep up the good work!"
—Nancy May, APPC

Tax cap has so many loopholes as to be nothing more than feel-good. Marriage belongs to the great majority of people, not to same sex. I have no problem with civil unions and equal economic and other terms, but not "marriage." First they started with civil unions, then they demanded "marriage." Next they’ll demand a huge research project to enable men to bear children.
—Norbert Rappl, Berginn Associates

I would have given a higher grade than the F that I DID give were it not for the passing of the gay marriage bill. I am not against all people having similar benefits, but Merriam-Webster defines marriage as "the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law". They should have called it something else, it is not marriage. Sen. (James) Alesi (R-Perinton) should be ashamed of himself, and he has gotten my last vote.
—Joe Fabetes, Rochester

Nothing has changed. (Sheldon) Silver still rules. With all of the problems in the state, all they focused on was homosexual marriage, which was opposed by a huge majority of the population. Money talks, and that was where the money was. All the other initiatives were simply talk, no action.
—Jim Weisbeck, Bloomfield

My own opinion is that the tax cap is—for many reasons—a sop to the public from politicians looking for an easy (sounding) fix to the property tax problem besetting New York State. What governments need to do, at all levels, is to cut spending. As a corollary, the state leg needs to limit mandates being foisted upon the localities. All that does is let them off the hook for their inability to control spending, because it doesn’t appear that they are the ones doing the taxing, which of course they are doing, albeit indirectly.
—Charles J. Genese

First, gridlock in Washington does not help. Regrettably, our new governor and the state legislative session in Albany did too little, and again failed to focus on those issues that would address jobs and growth. Businesses do not work on one-year intervals when they plan for growth and employment (how about a five-year outlook?). The legislature still does not comprehend that we need long-term commitments for expansion of the economy. The state is still controlled by the unions. We still are overburdened by the defined benefit plans and too-low contributions from government employees (vs. private employers). Contributing to retirement has been a hallmark of almost all major employers (401(k) plans). I will add that strategic blunders by some major employers to export jobs do not help (Xerox Corp., for one). However, had the long-term outlook on taxes and government budget management been more favorable, this may have had a different outcome. Our NYS legislature approaches improvement like walking up to the ocean with a salt shaker with the intent of changing the salinity. DUMB!
—Dennis Kiriazides, retired

Gov. Cuomo and the leaders of the House and Senate proved that compromise can be achieved. Cuomo’s strong, laser-like focus and leadership set a precedent for how New York can be governed. Cuomo enlisting Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy to take on some of the heavy lifting, spread the burden of governing so that he could focus on moving his legislative agenda forward. Remember, they’ve only been in office since January. Now that the legislative logjam is broken, I expect to see greater progress over the next few years.
—Frank Orienter, Rochester

As much as the media would like you to believe that the legislative session was good, it actually was extremely disappointing. The tax cap of 2 percent means that real estate taxes will double in 36 years. That is bad enough since we already have the highest property taxes. The tax cap bill was watered down with exceptions for some public employee benefits, etc. In addition, a bill was passed which gives the school districts the ability to be able to pay for additional pension costs over the next few years by issuing bonds over a long-term period. That’s like buying a brand-new car with a long-term mortgage. It makes no financial sense for the taxpayers. It puts us deeper in the hole. I submit that the effective tax cap maybe will be at 3 percent to 4 percent, which means that property taxes will double in 18 to 24 years. In addition, energy/utility, sales taxes, fees, surcharges, etc. will continue to escalate further putting the burden on working class families who pay income taxes who are not public employees. The right thing to do would be deep and immediate cuts to government spending in the form of layoffs, austerity budgets and/or financial control boards.
—John Rynne, president, Rynne, Murphy & Associates Inc.

While the legislature did some good things I still think they have fallen way short of what the State needs. It seems they got hung up on voting in the politically correct thing of legalizing same sex marriages and forgot why the state is failing and everyone is leaving. Again, did they find a way to cut income and other taxes? Did they find a way to lure more businesses to New York State and reduce the unemployment for good paying jobs? Did the manufacturing base go up? Did they find a way to reduce health care costs and insurance? So again, the things that are hurting the state which are the highest taxes, people fleeing the state, and unemployment have not been addressed. Maybe it will be on the next year’s agenda. Get ready for a lot of promises and no action. It will be an election year.
—Bob Stein

7/1/11 (c) 2011 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail rbj@rbj.net.


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