Chamber President Eager To Hear From Business Council

Workforce, economic development and fiscal reform are just a few of the topics The Business Council will be discussing during a regional briefing Friday.

Todd Tranum, Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce and Manufacturers Association president and chief executive officer, is anticipating the discussion taking place at Roberto’s Restaurant, 2 E. Second St., Jamestown. Ken Pokalsky, The Business Council vice president of government affairs, will lead an overview on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget, and will outline legislative priorities for The Business Council this year. Pokalsky has served on a number of state advisory panels and is a member of the state’s Business Taxpayer Advisory Committee. He is also The Business Council’s liaison with Empire State Development Corporation and the Department of Taxation.

Tranum said he is interested in hearing about education in workforce development and economic development when it comes to energy.

”These are key issues we are involved in,” he said. ”Obviously we have a strong interest and strong support in the investment NRG has proposed making at its Dunkirk facility. The discussion kind of ties into the energy superhighway, and how that ties into the NRG facility.”

NRG Energy wants to convert the Dunkirk 625-megawatt coal facility to a natural gas-powered, combined-cycle plant, with the generating capacity of approximately 600 megawatts. The $700 million project would be funded by NRG.

Tranum said fiscal reform with mandate relief is another issue affecting local municipalities that needs to be addressed.

”We know some of the fiscal pressures our local governments and schools are under,” he said. ”I’m interested in hearing more about The Business Council’s objectives on mandate relief.”

The Affordable Care Act and health care reform is another topic Tranum wants discussed Friday. The chamber has a business health insurance assistance program, which is similar to the new health insurance exchange program that will soon be in place.

”We started (the program) more than a year ago to help all businesses, not just our members, in Chautauqua County to better understand the Affordable Care Act, and the implications it will have on their business when it comes to health insurance,” he said.

Tranum said The Business Council annually schedules regional briefings on their agenda and the governor’s budget. However, the briefing doesn’t always take place locally.

”They do regional outreach when they present their annual legislative agenda. This year, through some discussion we had with them, they were interested in coming to Chautauqua County,” Tranum said. ”I think (the briefing) helps raise awareness of some of the critical issues facing the business community, and how those issues interlink with various legislation and laws in Albany.”

According to a news release from The Business Council, attendees to the briefing will be provided detailed analysis of Cuomo’s budget, specifically how it closes a $1 billion plus spending-gap with no new taxes or fees, which also provides additional mandate relief. The Business Council will also give an overview of the governor’s proposals to reduce the cost of major employer mandates including the workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance programs.

People will hear why business leaders should have concerns about several initiatives outlined by the governor that will impose new costs or new barriers on business. These include the proposed extension of the section 18a energy tax that would cost New Yorkers $472 million annually; significant new energy initiatives funded, at least in part, through increased rates or assessments; an increased state minimum wage; and tighter regional carbon emission limits that will increase energy costs on consumers.

The informative session will be held from 9-10:30 a.m. People can register through The Business Council’s website at www.bcnys.org/inside/registration/index.cfm#regionalbriefings.