There are just a handful of weeks left until the State Legislature wraps up the 2016 session and leaves Albany behind for another year. The end of session crunch is typically defined by heavy legislative activity, but there are strong indications this year’s session may wind down with little fanfare. Whether a little or a lot gets done over the next month, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership and our allies are making sure state legislators know what is important to New York’s employers.
Delivering a strong, concentrated and unified message is all the more important this year as employers are still coming to terms with the impacts – short and long-term – of the 2016-2017 State Budget. Passed this spring, the State Budget dealt several powerful blows to New York’s employers and went a long way to cementing New York’s earned reputation as one of the least business friendly states in the nation.
State leaders have a chance before session ends to show they understand the burdens employers face, and are serious about enacting policies that will encourage economic investment and give New York’s employers a fighting chance.
The Partnership, along with 41 other organizations from across New York, penned a letter outlining our end of session priorities and pinpointing areas where state leaders can take action to immediately improve New York’s business climate. The items outlined in our letter represent the collective agenda of tens of thousands of New York employers. The identified policies and reforms are central to any serious effort to counterbalance the impact of this year’s State Budget and the ongoing hurdles employers face.
Our priorities are:
Reform Workers’ Compensation – Employers in New York pay among the highest workers’ compensation costs in the nation. These costs are a hidden tax on employers, deterring existing businesses from growing and new ones from locating in New York.
Reform Wicks Law – Most public construction projects in New York (schools, roads and bridges, municipal buildings, etc.) are subject to separate bidding requirements for HVAC, plumbing and electric contracts under the Wicks Law. Studies estimate this law adds anywhere from 8% to 30% to project expenses.
Reduce Cost of Private Health Insurance/Reform HCRA Surcharge – New York State has among the highest health care costs of any state in the nation. One of the chief reasons is the number of taxes, surcharges and assessments the state imposes on employers and individuals who purchase health insurance.
Reduce Small Businesses Taxes – The tax burden in New York State is tremendous and remains the biggest obstacle to growth and investment. We continue to push for increased exemptions for small businesses and farms who pay taxes via the Personal Income Tax.
Reform Medical Liability – New York’s liability system is so imbalanced that our state is the only in the nation to actually subsidize (at taxpayer expense) doctors’ liability insurance just to keep them in the state, yet many continue to leave. The result of this system is higher healthcare costs, higher health insurance premiums, fewer healthcare professionals and less access to care.
Reform Scaffold Law – New York is the only state in the nation that has an absolute liability standard for gravity related accidents. We strongly support the adoption of a comparative negligence standard to sensibly balance work safety while allowing businesses to have their day in court.
For more background on this issues and to learn the detail of our reform proposal, read our full letter.
As the end of session nears, we will update you on the action or inaction of our state leaders on these important reforms and other bills of concern to the employer community. Stay tuned.