How will upstate New York fare during Governor Andrew Cuomo’s second year in office?
That’s the question on the minds of business leaders as Cuomo is set to deliver his “State of the State” address Wednesday in Albany.
Craig Turner, organizer of Accelerate Upstate, a business advocacy group, has this advice for the governor:
“Just keep on keepin’ on.”
Governor Cuomo’s first year in office has fans in Turner and his peers.
Cuomo counts closing a $10 billion deficit while reducing government spending, inspiring legislators to work together, and passing a two percent property tax cap among his first-year achievements. They were celebrated statewide, especially north of the Hudson.
While year one got the ball rolling, business leaders are looking to Cuomo to clear up issues created by his legislative victories, says Turner.
“Now you’re in this grey area where you’ve got a property tax cap, where you have to adhere to it, or have a special vote to supersede it, but you haven’t been given the pension relief and the health insurance relief that need to come along with it,” Turner says.
The key to accomplishing this, Turner says, is whether or not the legislature will continue their congenial relationship with Cuomo - or challenge his agenda more than last year. With 2012 being an election year, Turner says, there’s no telling how the session will go.
Trends in 2012
Last fall saw the highly-touted Accelerate Upstate Conference in Buffalo that gathered business leaders with the goal of creating one agenda that could be pushed in Albany this year. The symposium resulted in a document delivered to Cuomo in October.
Along with reforms proposed by the Western New York Regional Council, Turner says there’s no excuse that upstate’s needs should not be on the governor’s ledger.
Last year’s legislative session was particularly fruitful for western New York’s business community, says Turner, who also serves as vice president of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, a Chamber of Commerce-like outfit.
“We had a lot of positive advocacy victories from UB 2020, to the [$100.3 million] award that was received by the western New York Regional Council,” Turner says.
Together, those “victories” account for nearly $140 million from Albany in economic development grants and tax breaks to the Buffalo metro area.
But one year does not a trend make. Turner says western New York’s legislative delegation is committed to act as a unit, across party lines, to make sure the local business community doesn’t become an afterthought in Cuomo’s sophomore year.
Wednesday’s speech should give an indication whether Cuomo will tackle upstate’s pet peeves, like so-far unaddressed business regulations, fees, and continued uncertainty about last year’s property tax cap.
But if Cuomo’s first year in office is any indication, upstaters should have reason for optimism, says Turner.
“Especially when you look at Washington right now and see [an attitude] of ‘We’re not going to move anything, we’re going to stand in each others’ way as long as we possibly can’. Come back to New York and all of sudden there’s a model of how cooperative government should be working,” Turner says.