Governor’s Economic Development Initiatives Are Promising; Ag Should Not be Overlooked

Legislative Column by Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush (R,C-Black River)

New York State is often referred to as one of the most unfriendly states in the country to do business. From high taxes to burdensome regulations to bureaucratic mazes, small businesses and even large corporations continue to find it difficult to succeed in such a toxic business environment.

However, I am encouraged by some aspects of the governor’s budget proposal that would boost economic development. The governor’s budget emphasizes a commitment from moving away from government as the state’s major job creator and transitioning to the creation of an atmosphere that encourages more private sector growth.

For example, the governor has proposed the creation of 10 Regional Economic Development Councils that would take a regional approach to the allocation of economic development funding. While I have questioned the governor’s office regarding the size and geography of the proposed North Country region, I am optimistic that this proposal will ensure that our area has equal access to economic development funding which will help address our unique needs.

Furthermore, I am pleased with the governor’s proposal to enhance the Excelsior Jobs Program by extending the program’s tax benefit from 5 to 10 years, increasing the Excelsior Research and Development Tax Credit to be equal to 50% of the federal research and development credit (currently 10%), and increasing Excelsior low interest loans from $1 million to $2 million.

The governor also has proposed extending the current Power for Jobs program and opening it up to include agriculture. Agriculture is one of the largest job creators in upstate New York and, as such, should be eligible to receive the same benefits as other businesses.

While I applaud the governor’s commitment to economic development, I continue to remind my colleagues that agriculture funding needs to be considered as an investment in economic development and, therefore, the agriculture budget needs to be reconsidered. It is outrageous that agriculture has received just $1.2 million for 16 agriculture programs across the state, yet returns millions of dollars to the state’s economy.

This year’s budget process is proving to be challenging. Cuts must be made and spending must be responsible. I am pleased the Governor has shown a commitment to investing in upstate economic development, but I will continue to fight for agriculture’s fair share.

Don’t forget, my district office has moved! The office is now located at 15 Bridge St., Carthage, 315-493-3909. Feel free to stop by or give me a call.