Albany Messenger

Some of the concerns county and local lawmakers have regarding Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address will be making it back to Albany.

Sam Hoyt, regional president of Empire State Development, spoke Friday morning at the Robert H. Jackson Center. He provided a presentation of Cuomo’s State of the State address, followed by an opportunity for those in attendance to express their thoughts and concerns.

“The capacity of the convention center in Albany is such that it does not allow everybody who might want to hear the message itself the opportunity to do that. Yeah, you can watch it online, but not everyone had that opportunity,” Hoyt said. “Most importantly, I think, is the governor’s interest in getting feedback from the people who pay his salary. He has dispatched us, as senior staff, cabinet members, to go into every corner of New York state and to make the abbreviated presentation and, most importantly, to get feedback, to have dialog, to get the message back to Albany.”

During his 40-minute presentation, Hoyt touched on many of the same topics addressed by Cuomo in his State of the State address. He emphasized especially the economic challenge of applying research done in universities to the workforce. Hoyt also discussed Cuomo’s idea of creating new tax-free innovation hot spots, similar to the SUNY Fredonia Incubator in Dunkirk.

Also included in Hoyt’s presentation were reforms to worker’s compensation and unemployment insurance, which Cuomo says will result in $1.3 billion in savings to businesses. On the other hand, Hoyt also presented Cuomo’s plan to raise minimum wage in New York state by $1.50, to $8.75 per hour.

Hoyt also talked about marketing Upstate New York with duty-free stores across the state to promote New York-grown-and-produced products; offering a $5 million advertising competition for best regional marketing plans; sponsoring a national whitewater rafting competition entitled The Adirondack Challenge; and increasing tourism through destination resorts and casinos.

Finally, Hoyt touched on education issues, ideas for a Women’s Equality Act, gun control policies and establishing an emergency response network as well as a statewide volunteer corps.

Following his presentation, several people in attendance provided their comments, which Hoyt said he will relay to the governor.

“He’s not an ivory tower governor. He’s not just the guy who sits in Albany and hides behind the screen. He wants his people out in the community getting feedback,” Hoyt said of Cuomo.

Some speakers provided comments on the need for state mandate relief, while others offered opinions on ways to help local municipalities. Others spoke out about unemployment benefits and minimum wage concerns. Hoyt, who was in West Seneca Thursday, said many of the concerns he is hearing are similar.

“Mandate relief is certainly an issue that any local government official has concerns about,” he said. “Depending on the region, there are regional issues. The casino issue is of concern. Minimum wage – there are an awful lot of people who are excited about it, but there are some small business owners that have concerns. Gun control – it’s difficult.”

Now that the governor has provided his ideas, a discussion will really begin to see what will come to fruition and what will be left as only an idea.

“Some things, one can do by executive order, which the governor has the power to do,” Hoyt said. “Other things require an agreement between the senate, assembly and the governor, or it just doesn’t happen. This is a negotiating process. In some cases, what has been proposed will not be what finally becomes law. Really, that’s a work in progress.”