The local chambers of commerce are looking ahead with cautious optimism after Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled his budget for the state's 2011-12 fiscal year.
"I think the most important thing he is talking about is reducing spending, and that's what the business community has been saying," Fulton County Regional Chamber of Commerce & Industry President Wally Hart said. "He's proposing not to raise taxes and fees, and we see that as a positive sign.
Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce President Deborah Auspelmyer agreed.
Activity is seen at the Walmart Distribution Center in Johnstown on Friday. Gov.
Andrew Cuomo’s proposed state budget includes several economic development initiatives that would affect local counties.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
Cuomo presents his 2011-12 proposed Executive Budget in Albany on Feb. 1.
The Associated Press
This screenshot taken Thursday shows Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s state budget homepage at www.ny.gov.
"Lowering taxes and streamlining government will help businesses," she said. "Can it be done? We'll just have to wait for the answer."
Both chamber presidents pointed to taxes and fees as being one of the biggest obstacles to having a successful business in New York state.
Hart said a huge obstacle is the cost of doing business in the state, which includes property taxes, health-care costs, workers' compensation and energy costs.
"That really makes it difficult to do business here," he said.
Auspelmyer said taxes and regulations need to be reduced to cut down on some of the expenses to business owners.
"There's small little regulations and fees that are put on top of businesses, but they do add up," she said.
The proposed budget calls for the establishment of 10 Regional Economic Development Councils, which will be chaired by Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy. According to a news release from the governor's office, the councils will create a more regionally based approach to allocating economic-development funding and to act as a one-stop shop for all state-supported economic development and business assistance programs in each region.
The budget also sends more than $340 million in existing economic development capital for major regional initiatives. The budget also strengthens the Excelsior Jobs Program, which was created by Gov. David Paterson in 2010 to replace the Empire Zones program.
Hart also applauded the recent appointment of former New York State Business Council President and former Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President Ken Adams as head of the Empire State Development Corp.
"Ken is certainly going to bring a tremendous understanding of how business works and hopefully he will be given the tools he needs," Hart said. "We're very pleased that Ken was chosen to represent the business community."
While the governor's budget seemed aggressive in cutting school aid and Medicaid spending, the real test will come before the state Legislature over the next two months. During last year's budget process, most of Paterson's cuts were implemented in the form of budget extenders passed to keep the state government solvent.
"This is probably the most critical time to turn New York around, but it's also the toughest," Auspelmyer said. "He seems to be heading in the right direction, but when you go up against the special interests and cuts and how much people push back, that's where you face the tough decisions."