The 2015 New York State Legislative session is one for the history books – but not for what was accomplished legislatively.
This tumultuous session, which saw the leaders of both the Senate and Assembly resign their leadership posts in scandal, ended more than a week later than scheduled and with very little legislative activity.
Thankfully, the final legislative package did include the Partnership’s priority issue: an extension of the Property Tax Cap.
The Partnership, working hand-in-hand with Unshackle Upstate, advocated aggressively to convince the State Legislature and Governor to make the existing cap permanent.
While our position had significant traction, making the cap permanent was a tall order.
In the end, we achieved a five year extension of the cap through 2020.
Since its enactment in 2011, the cap has saved New Yorkers a total of $7.6 billion ($449 million in Western New York).
Recent data shows that vast majority of New York’s municipal governments and school districts are living within the cap, significantly controlling the growth of property taxes across the state.
A five year extension is a critical step in the right direction which will allow all New York property owners to continue to reap the benefit the cap provides and make any future efforts to erode the cap significantly harder.
A strong Property Tax Cap is all the more important given the fact that the other property tax component of the end of session package does not benefit commercial property owners.
While we celebrate an extension of the Property Tax Cap, we must keep the pressure on the Governor and State Legislature to seriously and aggressively address mandate relief.
Unfunded state mandates continue to be the driver of high property taxes in New York. We must address this problem at its source to truly change the business climate and economic outlook of Upstate.
A recent court decision brought about by a lack of clarity in the 2008 Workers’ Compensation reform package had left some employers exposed to rapidly escalating assessments.
Locally, the proposal to give Mayor Brown control of the Buffalo Public School was not included in the final legislative package. The proposal’s sponsor, Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, has pledged to reintroduce the measure next session.
While session has officially ended for 2015, two critical issues continue to develop.
First, the Partnership will continue to watch negotiations between developers and labor over prevailing wage requirements on affordable housing projects.
The outcome of this negotiation could eventually have an impact on all private construction projects receiving some form of public support.
Second, the Fast Food Wage Board impaneled by Governor Cuomo has announced that it plans to recommend a substantial increase in the hour wage for fast food workers.
While the board has yet to specify a number, the increase could be as high as $15 an hour.
The Wage Board’s decision will ripple well beyond the fast food industry and will further disadvantage businesses and job opportunities in this state.
The Partnership believes the use of a Wage Board to increase minimum wage rates for a particular sector is bad public policy.
We believe that any increase in the state’s minimum wage (already scheduled to increase this December to $9 an hour) should be made by the State Legislature.
Instead of pushing for significantly higher wages for entry level jobs, we encourage state leaders to focus on adopting basic reforms that will generate new opportunities in key jobs sectors and incentivizing job creation by encouraging existing businesses to stay and grow in New York.
While the Legislature’s work in Albany is done for 2015, the Partnership will continue its advocacy on behalf of its members in the weeks and months ahead.