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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara

"A few jabs in a big fight for jobs"

ALBANY, April 28 -- The governors of New York and Texas – two of the largest and most
competitive states in America – engaged in a little give-and-take last week that made headlines. It’s worth a closer look.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry started the dustup with a three-day visit to New York City aimed at luring (poaching?) city-based businesses to relocate to Texas. Keep in mind that the Cuomo administration has been running television ads in Texas touting the new StartUp NY tax-free zones to try to get Texas-based businesses to set up shop in New York.

So there’s a genuine undercurrent of economic competition going on. It’s a sincere New York versus Texas fight within a national and global economic arena where good jobs are the prize. There’s a lot of serious business at stake. But there’s politics at play too – both governors are mentioned as future presidential candidates -- and whenever that’s the case, some of the lines between fact and fiction get blurred.

During an Albany radio interview, Gov. Perry offered to publicly debate Gov. Cuomo on each state’s economic strengths. He called New York’s job creation efforts “small ball.” A day later, Gov. Cuomo straightforwardly declined to debate but threw a jab of his own, saying “I understand if other states are jealous about what we’re doing.”

I’m more than ready to stand behind anyone fighting for New York’s economy. My personal priority will always be to win jobs for the workers of the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes. But what’s even more important is that we make sure New York is stepping into the ring in shape to win the fight. That’s the key question that comes out of last week’s Cuomo-Perry bout.

Do other states, like Texas, have anything to fear about New York State as an economic contender? I’ll mention just a few indicators to make a larger point:

1.) There have been upticks in New York’s latest unemployment figures, but they’re slight. In many places in fact, especially upstate, for those still struggling to find a good job or for communities and small businesses fighting to turn around their economic fortunes, the change probably goes unnoticed. As far as the manufacturing sector goes, there remain some especially troubling weaknesses;

2.) A recent survey of upstate manufacturing executives offered revealing insights. While nearly 70% of upstate manufacturers remain optimistic about staying in business in New York, 60% also believe that NY’s business climate is headed in the wrong direction, with high taxes more often than not cited as the most significant competitive obstacle (remembering that this survey was conducted shortly before the adoption of this year’s budget, which included significant reductions to corporate tax rates for NYS manufacturers); and

3.) The Washington, D.C-based Tax Foundation has been notoriously tough on New York’s business climate, ranking us dead last for a few years running. In its most recent assessment, however, following the adoption of a state budget that included critical tax cuts, the foundation was somewhat more positive. It moved NY from 25th to 4th in the nation in its corporate tax system rankings. It also took us off the bottom of the barrel for overall business tax climate and ahead of New Jersey and California – still 48th, but no longer the worst of the worst.

This last point makes the larger case. It’s an election year, so we need to be on guard in the months ahead about falling too far into the campaign-season trap of slogan over substance. So I’d say that overall in New York State there have absolutely been moves in the right direction, moves that will make a long-term difference if we keep building on them. But we shouldn’t climb into the ring full of bravado.

Locally, since 2011, the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes economic development councils have won decisive rounds and shown working partnerships, leadership, vision and commitment that, with strong state investment, have set in motion programs, policies and projects that will produce more economic victories in the long run. There’s good news there. But weaknesses remain. For example, again for our region specifically, the Cuomo administration can’t keep turning its collective back on the potential economic benefits of developing the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry. The administration can’t think we’ve done enough to cut taxes or eliminate regulations. We’ve still got a long way to go on mandate relief.

When the Legislature heads back to the Capitol this week to begin the final weeks of this year’s session, there’s going to be plenty of talk about which pieces of unfinished business are most critical to the state’s future. Some legislators will advocate having taxpayers finance political campaigns. Others will renew their call to provide illegal aliens with a state-financed college education. There’ll be a big push for legalizing medical marijuana.

I hope -- and I’ll be working to try to make sure -- that we don’t lose sight of job No. 1, which is the need for jobs. That’s the real importance of last week’s Cuomo-Perry exchange. It should remind us that New York still has a lot to do to win that fight.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara

Schuyler County Officials

Legislature Members:

Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Jim Howell, Michael Lausell, Van Harp

Bottom row: Tom Gifford, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field.


Legislature Chairman

Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687

Legislature Members:

Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517

Van Harp

Jim Howell

Barbara Halpin, 594-3683

Michael Lausell

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: Gary Whyman, 535-8181

District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383


State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County

Sen. Charles E. Schumer

United States Senate
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3201
DC Phone: 202-224-6542
DC Fax: 202-228-3027
Email Address:

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
DC Phone: 202-224-4451

State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)

Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976

Assemblyman Phil Palmesano-- Steuben, Schuyler, Yates
Room 723, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-5791


© The Odessa File 2011
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869