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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara
“Jobs, jobs, jobs?”
ALBANY, March 14 -- A flurry of state and federal reports came down like the rain over the past week. Altogether they’ve highlighted, once again, that while most of the action so far surrounding this year’s state budget has been centered on streamlining, redesigning, and restructuring -- in other words, reducing the size and cost of -- government, the state economy still needs serious attention. And the sooner, the better.
Recent reports highlighted:
-- the latest unemployment figures from the state Labor Department showing across-the-board job losses in Chemung, Schuyler and Steuben counties at the beginning of 2011;
-- that the lack of population growth in upstate New York counties remains glaring, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau. While the latest data shows more than half of the state’s 62 counties with population losses or sluggish growth at best, the 34 counties that lost population are upstate. Why? According to one prominent analyst from the well-respected Rockefeller Institute of Government, “The basic connection is a strong economy and healthy job growth to keep residents.”
-- on the heels of this Census data, figures from the New York Field Office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) revealed a decline in the number of New York farms. Overall, the state lost 300 farms from 2009 to last year. But one of the most alarming findings from the latest USDA summary is this one: from 2002 to 2007, New York lost 23 percent of its dairy farms. The losses were less during the same five-year period for the Finger Lakes region, 15 percent, but that’s very troubling in a region with an overall economy so reliant on agriculture and tourism.
The question again is, Why? In addition to the impact of global, national and statewide economic downturns, the head of the New York Farm Bureau, Dean Norton, also pointed to “New York’s unfriendly business climate.”
So as this year’s state budget negotiations heat up over the next several weeks, we must stay focused on the economy. There’s an undeniable need to put in place more responsible fiscal practices across government and to construct a foundation for long-term fiscal responsibility. But we cannot lose sight of the most critical responsibility of all: to zero in on beginning to turn around the state’s overall business climate with an emphasis on sustained, private-sector job growth.
The state Senate kicked off this year’s session by approving the “Job Creation and Taxpayer Protection Act,” a comprehensive strategy to encourage overall economic growth and focus on the creation of upstate jobs. Our plan would make it harder for legislators to approve any future state tax increases, permanently cap future state spending (since reining in out-of-control state spending is critical to starting us on a better path), and impose a moratorium on job-killing state regulations.
One of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s favorite mantras at the start of his administration has been, “Jobs, jobs, jobs.” His proposed state budget contains a series of economic development proposals, some of them, like bolstering tax incentives targeted to job creation, in line with the Senate -- but we must do even more to make New York State even more competitive.
So there are plans on the negotiating table – but they can’t work if that’s where they stay. The next several weeks will go a long way toward determining the state’s future in many ways – maybe none more important than the future of the state economy. We have to get it right. Albany has to take a new approach to economic growth. You can read more on my website, www.omara.nysenate.gov.
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara
Schuyler County Officials
Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison
Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field
Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687
Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967
Doris L. Karius, 546-5544
Barbara Halpin, 594-3683
Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385
Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517
Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen 481-0482
Stewart Field, Watkins Glen 535-2335
County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133
Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222
Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222
County Treasurer: Margaret Starbuck, 535-8181
District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383
State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County
Sen. Charles E. Schumer
United States Senate
Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senate
State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)
Room 415, Legislative Office Building
Assemblyman Christopher Friend --
Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869