‘Much To Do’
ALBANY-The state of New York is improving, but more work needs to be done.
At Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s fourth State of the State address Wednesday, he talked about job creation, taxes, tourism, education and ethics reform.
Cuomo started his speech by reviewing improvements in New York state over the first three years of his administration and said, in the past, the state had spent “way too much money.”
“This is a different day and we’re going a different way,” he said.
In December 2013, Cuomo’s tax relief commission said three years of responsible budgeting resulted in a $2 billion surplus, which was also mentioned Wednesday.
The governor explained how the surplus would be used to benefit state residents, but explained certain measures must be taken for the state to further improve.
“It’s time to stop making excuses and start making progress,” he said, further suggesting lowering property taxes through consolidation of local governments. “There are too many districts and proliferation of government that is exceedingly expensive and costly.”
Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan, who was acknowledged by Cuomo during the address for his election win in November, said Chautauqua County has already experienced some of those cost-cutting concepts.
Consolidation of the county Health and Human Services Department, downsizing of the Chautauqua County Legislature, shared services between municipalities and the potential for a regional water district in the north county are all contributing to the initiative.
“We want to be as efficient as we can, but at the same time we have to be sensitive to what the voters feel is the right thing in their individual communities,” Horrigan said.
Cuomo suggested putting a freeze on property taxes for two years in order to reduce costs for homeowners because of the burden taxes are on individuals, families and businesses in New York.
To encourage economic competitiveness, investment and further growth, Cuomo recommended lower rates for businesses and simplification of the tax structure. This included a reduction in the corporate income tax rate to 6.5 percent, the lowest corporate rate since 1968.
The rate for upstate manufacturers would be reduced further to 2.5 percent, the lowest rate ever, while property taxes on manufacturers would be reduced by 20 percent through a state credit program.
“I’m hopeful that the governor’s financial commitment will help reduce taxes for everyone in this county,” said Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-C-I-Chautauqua. “Those two initiatives (for manufacturers) would be a tremendous, positive impact on improving the competitive economy of New York.”
Freezing property taxes for two years would provide relief to taxpayers already overburdened by the current level of property taxation.
“We’re going to continue to work with (the state) on the best way to implement those savings which will enable us to lower our property taxes,” Horrigan said.
In other matters, one of the initiatives Cuomo seemed most passionate about during the address was the implementation of new signage across the state to promote tourism.
He said $40 million has been invested in a marketing campaign to take tourism efforts to a new level. Additionally, he said tourism jobs have increased by 25,000, which is twice the national rate of growth.
“The goal is to get people who are on the roads off the roads and into communities,” Cuomo said. “It’s a matter of exposure.”
One of Horrigan’s plans for 2014 is to increase tourism to Chautauqua County.
“I applaud that aspect of what the state is doing with tourism,” Horrigan said. “This is an exciting part of our future.”
During the last part of Cuomo’s address, he spoke of reforming policies within state government and said he wanted new corruption laws and public financing of elections.
“I support the desire of Cuomo to strengthen ethics in Albany. I support that objective,” Goodell said. “I was disappointed that the governor mentioned nothing about reducing campaign limits, power and influence of internal political committees or closing any of the campaign loopholes. I support the need, I just think he missed the mark in terms of what the problem is all about.”
Horrigan said elected officials need to be of high integrity and ethical behavior, and when politicians misbehave it gives politics a bad name.
“That’s why, in so many cases, people don’t vote or young people aren’t interested in politics, which is such an important profession,” he said.