OP-ED: "REFORM LAWS TO GROW BUSINESS," ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE

Governor Cuomo recently stopped in Rochester to announce the formation of his “regional economic development councils,” whose mission and responsibilities remain vaguely defined. 

Public relations tours and councils of campaign donors and lobbyists are not the solution to New York’s economic woes.

Rochester-area payrolls have expanded faster in 2011 than at any time in the last 20 years - but with unemployment still historically high, much remains to be done to restore Rochester to its pre-recession employment levels. 

Candidate Cuomo pledged a fiscally responsible, job-creating government -- but key changes in the way New York does business are yet to come.

Local government-mandate relief, reform of government pensions, job-creating tax reform, education reform and infrastructure updates still require Albany's attention.

Driven by state and federal mandates, which can eat up 85% of a county budget, New York’s property taxes are double the national average. Upstate counties, including Monroe, have the highest tax burden compared to property values in the nation.

While the governor joined Senate Republicans in passing a strong property-tax cap, relief from the state mandates that cause high local property taxes has yet to be addressed.

The Medicaid mandate is by far the most burdensome. Allowing counties to structure their own Medicaid programs or capping counties' Medicaid obligations would unite funding and program responsibilities -- reducing costs and improving services.

Cuomo has said that public-pension reform will be his top goal for next year. To end the connection between longevity in office and pension benefits, defined-contribution plans in line with private-sector pensions should be adopted for future elected and appointed officials.

It is also vital to reduce taxes affecting job creation.  Yet Albany just announced a counterproductive new surcharge on businesses’ taxable wages.  This does not gel well with the Governor’s “pro-business” swing through Rochester.

New York spends top dollar on education for mediocre results, especially in our inner cities.  Assembly Democrats continue to resist reforms, including effective charter schools, merit pay for teachers, increased aid to parochial schools and the elimination of LIFO.

With a stagnant construction industry and precarious state finances, Albany must promote public private partnerships to update our aging infrastructure.  Rochester’s former canal and subway tunnels are prime targets for revitalization.

New York is falling behind competitive states where Republican governors and legislatures have used their political capital to improve the fiscal and business climate.  These states have erased budget deficits without raising taxes while enacting reforms to make their states more competitive. 

Albany faces a daunting agenda of leftover matters. Cuomo must focus on New York's government-driven economic problems and use all his vaunted political skills and carefully preserved political capital to keep New York competitive and stop the hemorrhaging of jobs and citizens.  

Ed Cox is New York State GOP chairman.