October 19, 2011

Council Calls for Regulation Reform

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At a meeting of the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council at Cornell on Wednesday, local leaders in government, business and higher education assailed state regulations and policies that they say have stifled economic growth and put New York State at a competitive disadvantage for job creation.

Although the council was created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to use public expenditures to spur regional growth, several of the meeting’s attendees said that Cuomo should instead focus on reducing the government’s presence in the marketplace. The Southern Tier council is one of 10 such councils across New York State.

“The problem, really, is over-regulation. The regulatory environment is stifling business in the state,” said Tom Tranter, president and CEO of Corning Enterprises and co-chair of the regional council.

Other members of the council brought up how New York State may be losing jobs to other states with such restrictive regulations.

“It creates a significant competitive disadvantage for the state,” said another business leader.

President David Skorton, who is the other co-chair of the council, pressed for a more moderate analysis of the underlying causes of the situation.

“I personally think there’s a whole variety of things … One person’s over-regulation is another person’s under-regulation,” he said.

New York State Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy, who is overseeing the regional committees, agreed that the regulatory environment was hindering economic development, but cautioned that there was no easy fix to the situation. While he said that the state’s economic policies needed significant reforms, he was quick to dismiss over-regulation as the only problem.

“It’s easy to point fingers at mandates, regulations, issues and impediments, but what Gov. Cuomo is doing is giving everybody across the state an opportunity to help fix them,” Duffy said.

Throughout the meeting and at a subsequent press conference, Duffy emphasized the importance of the councils in creating jobs across the state. He said the council had the potential to not only approve specific grant proposals, but also to provide input to the state government about how to reform its policies in order to drive economic development.

“The councils have the opportunity to redefine the process,” Duffy said. “It is a unique opportunity to change things. You have an enormous amount of power here.”

Cuomo has pledged $1 billion in state grants to fund the best job-creating proposals from the councils, including a total of $130 million in capital dollars and $70 million in tax credits. The Southern Tier council includes the President of Binghamton University, the mayors of Ithaca and Elmira and the Vice President of Lockheed Martin Systems Integration.

During the press conference, Skorton praised Cuomo and Duffy for listening to the council’s concerns about the statewide economic environment.

“This is a very healthy attitude of actually inviting comment and constructive criticism of how we can do things better in the state and change the general environment for economic development, which will allow all ships to rise,” Skorton said.

Skorton also praised the high amount of input from the general public on how best to increase economic development statewide. He noted that over 9,000 people have emailed suggestions to a website set up by the governor’s office.

At the meeting, the council also identified a set of impediments to statewide economic development in addition to over-regulation. The list included high business taxes, infrastructure issues, workforce development issues, and a lack of coordination among state agencies.

While Duffy said he was optimistic about the ability of the councils to come up with effective solutions that would help turn around the state economy, he emphasized that such measures would take time to implement.

“I’m not going to promise that the governor is going to wave a magic wand and make everything go away,” Duffy said.

Still, Duffy made it clear that New York State was in a poor position to compete with other state,s such as Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Florida and Texas, for jobs.

“I think we can do a whole lot better as a state,” Duffy said.

Original Author: David Marten