State Representatives Speak At Chamber Of Commerce Legislative Breakfast

LAKEWOOD – Chamber of Commerce members attended a Legislative Breakfast at the Lakewood Rod & Gun Club on Friday morning to hear about issues of importance from Sen. Cathy Young and Assemblyman Andy Goodell.

John D’Agostino, Dunkirk OBSERVER publisher, moderated the event, and began by asking Goodell, R-Jamestown, and Young, R-Olean, what they are doing to improve the business environment in Chautauqua County.

“We’re all very concerned about the news we’ve received on companies closing and leaving,” Young said. “I think it’s critically important to make New York state more business-competitive.”

Young said many initiatives were included in the state budget in order to do so, such as the elimination of the 5.9 percent corporate tax on manufacturers, and other tax reductions.

“My absolute top priority is to support efforts to make New York state more business-competitive,” Goodell said. “We need to look at the cost drivers for our manufacturers in New York that are higher than our competition, and systematically go through that list and address them. I support broad-based tax cuts, because every publication shows New York ranked 50th for tax burdens. Unless you get off the bottom, you cannot compete successfully.”

D’Agostino asked the state representatives to name their top three concerns in the capital.

Goodell said welfare reform was his first concern, along with lowering the cost of health insurance, while efforts to address workers compensation costs came third.

“We’ve made tremendous progress on our Welfare to Work program in the last few years, but it’s clearly a major issue,” Goodell said, adding that he is working on legislation to ease the burden of unemployment and workers compensation laws, because they are major cost drivers for employers.

Young said her top three priorities were securing extra funds for hospitals in Chautauqua County, legislation for those with disabilities to receive aid in modifications to their homes and lastly, welfare reform.

“We’ve got to work hard against welfare fraud, waste and abuse and I think Andy and I are working in sync on those issues to be able to address them,” Young said.

The Common Core was also a concern for both.

“This is one of my missions, to make sure that there is a greater connection between what children are learning in our public schools and what the needs in the local workforce are,” Young said. “The Common Core was rolled out in a disastrous fashion. It really had no common sense behind it.”

She added that the state budget banned standardized testing on students from pre-k through second grade, created a parents’ Bill of Rights and addressed student privacy protection.

In other matters, an audience member questioned about the progress of high volume hydraulic fracking within New York state.

“The real challenge is to get the governor to understand that we can safely develop our natural gas resources, and we will move forward on it when the state signs off on it,” Goodell said. “As you know, the approval of high volume hydro-fracking has been held up in the state health department.”

An audience member said that increases in workers compensation are becoming burdensome for advanced manufacturers due to the Scaffold Law, and asked what the solution to increasing costs is.

“If you’re an employee and fall off of an elevated surface, the employer has strict liability,” Goodell said. “It drives up the cost to everyone in New York state involved with construction or maintenance work. We need to address the cost of the workers’ compensation system in a way that’s fair and equitable to bring it in line with our competition, and we are in competition with other states.”