Albany’s Session Ends With Lots of Flash

ALBANY (AP) -

ANALYSIS

New York’s legislative session has been highlighted by flashy proposals to expand casino gambling, publicly finance campaigns and combat corruption after a string of scandals.

“We had a remarkable
string of accomplishments,” Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said last week.

But far more grave news, overshadowed by the flurry of rallies and public speeches, also surfaced in recent weeks:

  • Two weeks ago, a federal report showed New York’s economy grew at a slower pace than the national rate in 2012. New York ranked 37th among all states in a dismal record for the state’s gross domestic product for the last three years.
  • State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s own reports have quietly shown much the same.
  • Last week, Armonk-based IBM Corp. announced layoffs of an undisclosed number of workers.
  • New York’s unemployment rate was 7.8 percent in April, above the national average of 7.5 percent, though improved from 8.6 percent a year before.
  • Now, Republican Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is hitting New York airwaves with radio spots claiming, “The ‘new’ New York sounds a lot like the old New York.”

Perry is scheduled to meet with New York business leaders as part of his attempt to poach jobs and rip New York’s high taxes and business regulations that have run employers out of the state for decades.

The fiscal data contrast with the public face of Albany, which includes the “New York Open for Business” commercials featuring busy, happy workers in bustling high-tech companies.

Cuomo’s late-session initiatives don’t ignore the economy. He is still pushing to create three or four casinos upstate and turn college campuses into tax-free business development zones. The bold Tax-Free New York proposal would seek to entice employers into New York to align with campuses in exchange for 10 years without any business taxes, property taxes, or even income taxes for employees. College presidents and some business groups immediately supported it.

Since he proposed the tax-free zones, opposition has risen to what critics claim would be a two-tiered New York, with some not paying taxes on the uncertain bet they will stick around after 10 years, and the vast majority still paying the nation’s highest taxes.