Unshackle Upstate Inc. — a pro-taxpayer advocacy organization — in 2020 plans to tackle and reject New York State’s expanded prevailing wage mandate, a single-payer system and scores of additional business and individual healthcare, economic development and policy areas it says lead to out-migration.
“New York’s high tax burden, costly mandates and senseless regulations have driven out more than 1 million residents—many from upstate—over the last decade. Without aggressive action from leaders in Albany, this unacceptable exodus from the Empire State will continue,” said Michael Kracker, executive director of Unshackle Upstate. “Our 2020 agenda shares a clear vision for upstate’s future: reject anti-growth measures, stop nickel-and-diming hardworking families and improve the state’s harsh business climate. That’s what New York taxpayers and job creators need.”
Among the organization’s 2020 Advocacy Agenda items are the rejection of an expanded prevailing wage mandate, opposition to a single-payer healthcare system, blocking new mandates on employers, investing in workforce development and strengthening upstate’s voice in Albany.
Recent U.S. Census Bureau data show that New York has lost nearly 1.4 million residents since 2010. Southern states like Florida, Texas and North Carolina have lower tax burdens and what Unshackle Upstate—citing reports from Wallet Hub and the Tax Foundation—calls better business climates than New York.
“While we’ve made some progress, like tackling New York’s property taxes with the 2 percent cap, other costly taxes continue to fuel the high cost of living across the state,” Kracker said. “As we enter a new decade, Albany has the opportunity to reverse course. 2020 must be the year that Albany stands up for overburdened taxpayers and advances policies that get our economy moving, not our people.”
The group’s Advocacy Agenda contends that expanding the prevailing wage mandate to private construction projects would dramatically increase costs and “devastate” economic development efforts in Upstate New York. Recently introduced legislation would apply prevailing wage mandates to any construction project that receives public funding.
“Any project receiving support from a local (industrial development agency), utilizing historic or brownfield tax credit or any other economic development entity would be required to pay higher wages and benefit rates,” according to the report, released Jan. 7. “Lawmakers who truly support a growing upstate economy should oppose this proposal and others like it.”
Unshackle Upstate also intends to block “job-killing” employer mandates that “place onerous restrictions on scheduling, carry burdensome reporting, administrative and compliance challenges and dramatically increase labor costs for employers.”
“Legislators should reject any effort to impose new mandates on employers and work with the business community to find commonsense ways to reduce New York’s regulatory burden,” Unshackle Upstate officials wrote in the report.
The report notes that across the state thousands of middle-skill jobs remain unfilled. The organization will encourage elected officials to help employers gain access to the talent they need to grow by engaging and empowering chambers of commerce, employer-led organizations and private-sector employers in workforce development efforts.
Unshackle Upstate suggests initiating the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s employer-led Talent Pipeline Management program; fund the Chamber of Commerce On-the-job Training Program; remove employment obstacles; and address the benefits cliff.
Unshackle Upstate supports reforming New York’s universal rent regulations that were enacted during 2019 to protect tenants and expand the potential for rent stabilization that includes upstate communities. In terms of regulations, the organization supports gig economy workers and businesses and opposes chemical over-regulation and product bans, which it says can hurt the stability and growth of upstate.
Unshackle Upstate also suggests the Legislature consider establishing an impairment standard addressing impacts on workplace safety and employer liability with regard to marijuana legalization.
The organization supports investing in upstate’s economy through funding of shovel-ready sites; the lowering of the qualifying jobs threshold for the state’s Excelsior Jobs Program; enhancing the brownfield cleanup program; maintaining and improving the Regional Economic Development Council process, including the Upstate Revitalization Initiative and the Downtown Revitalization Initiative; and supporting the Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative.
Unshackle Upstate addresses energy in its 2020 report, noting that to grow the upstate economy, consumers need access to affordable energy.
“New York’s resistance to new pipelines is hurting businesses and residents who end up paying higher energy prices,” the report states. “In some areas of the state, these moratoriums have halted economic development with utilities unable to meet the demand of new high-use consumers.”
Unshackle Upstate is urging New York’s leaders to “stop making politically motivated decisions” to reject new pipelines.
The organization continues to support reforming New York’s Scaffold Law and opposes mandating regionally negotiated project labor agreements it contends increase the cost of construction projects by 18 to 30 percent.
Unshackle Upstate also supports improving the state’s Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises program. The group is calling for a new disparity study “to better determine the demographics of the state’s diverse economic regions.”
Finally, the organization supports healthcare reforms that include reducing health care taxes, assessments and surcharges; reining in prescription drug costs by promoting greater transparency by pharmaceutical companies; protecting consumers from hospital mergers costs; and opposing physician collective bargaining.
Unshackle Upstate is a nonpartisan, pro-taxpayer, pro-economic growth education and advocacy coalition comprising business and trade organizations from across Upstate New York. Partners include the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce Inc., the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, the Empire State Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors; the Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce and the North Country Chamber of Commerce.
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