Appalachian Basin

Giving Upstate the Business, While Ignoring Natural Gas

The time for platitudes about saving upstate New York is over.  It’s time to take action.  Governor Cuomo needs to put all the loose talk about acting on science, when he’s really playing politics, behind us.  Upstate is dying and the Governors make-believe actions aren’t going to save it.

Candidate Andrew Cuomo said, “We must make New York the jobs capital of the nation and get unemployed New Yorkers back to work….Upstate continues to witness the crumbling of its manufacturing employment base.”  Governor Cuomo, to accomplish this, signed a so-called 2% property tax cap, claims to have cut taxes, created Economic Development Councils to grow local businesses and launched a glitzy marketing campaign called New York – Open for Business.

Let’s take a closer look at what the Governor’s done. Is it working?  Has it produced anything even close to what natural gas development would do for the Upstate New York economy?

The Governor’s 2% property tax cap didn’t lower our high property taxes; it froze them in place.  Congratulations, Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Cortland, Schuyler, Steuben, Sullivan and Tompkins County residents: you’re already in the top 200 list of highest property tax counties nationwide and now you’re guaranteed to stay there.  New York has 18 counties in the most expensive 100.  Here is how the Tax Foundation ranks Southern Tier counties (out of 2,922 counties nationwide for which they have the data), bearing in mind the Tax Foundation ranks New York State as the worst state.

Screen Shot 2013-03-18 at 7.12.36 AMMoreover, Cuomo’s “tax cuts” were less than 1% for middle income earners.  The highest earners got an increase.

Then there are those Economic Development Councils that redistribute money taken from us to businesses the councils prefer.  It is centralized command and control, with local council members as window dressing. This idea has never worked anywhere.  The councils are employed to generate headlines because our leaders have quit trying to attract businesses to upstate New York.   They arrogantly call that “smokestack chasing.” If smokestack chasing means luring business in, they’ve given it up.  If it means chasing business out of New York, they’ve never stopped.

A prime example is the oil and gas industry.  The study of hydraulic fracturing drags on and is now in its fifth year.  Can you name any other industry willing to risk New York’s hostile business climate, invest billions of dollars and create thousands of jobs?

Yet, there is delay after delay while other states, including not only Ohio and Pennsylvania, but also California and Illinois, are proceeding.  Both the EPA and every major state involved with natural gas production says its safe and there have been no incidents of hydraulic fracturing polluting a water supply in six decades of doing it, including here in New York.  None of this appears to be good enough for our governor, who seems more worried about the NRDC and the Park Foundation than upstate New York.

Worse, Governor Cuomo seems to have stifled his own Departments of Environmental Conservation and Health, both of whom have now produced reports indicating New York can safely proceed with hydraulic fracturing at the scale required to develop the Marcellus Shale.  He has personally refused to let them them proceed on the basis of a “doth protest too much” claim about using science, while taking the very political step of putting the NRDC connected Joe Martens in charge of the DEC.  He’s not fooling anyone.

Cuomo’s economic program is an elaborate dog-and-pony show to convince upstate voters that he cares about us.  Cuomo and his allies, upstate and down, don’t care about upstate New York. The boot on the neck of upstate is a government that is too big, taxes that are too high and far too much regulation.  Cuomo never touches this. Instead we get sleight of hand; watch my Economic Development Councils (not the bloated state government).

092412_SIKORSKYCuomo’s slick marketing campaign can’t alter the facts.  Sikorsky’s SMCC facility and many others are done. Unemployment rates are 11.9% in Steuben County, 10.5% in Chemung and 11% in Schuyler. The nation’s CEO’s aren’t buying Cuomo’s slight-of-hand either.  Chief Executive Magazine’s 2012 survey of the nation’s CEO’s still rank New York as the 49th best state for business. Only California is worse.  We were ranked 49th in 2011.  Cuomo’s policies have vaulted us all the way from 49th to 49th.  Sadly, as young people leave to find jobs, we who remain here will pay the price for this sham.

If Governor Cuomo truly wanted to help Upstate New York, he wouldn’t be sitting on his hands fretting about what Yoko Ono might think about natural gas development, fooling around with Economic Development Councils or chasing dreams about making us the yogurt capital.  He’d be creating jobs by ending the fiasco and approving regulations for high-volume hydraulic fracturing in the Southern Tier.  How many more closed factories will it take before he puts the politics aside and actually does act on the science?

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