Generally speaking, the 2016 New York State budget is a disappointment. Even while we have found bits of good news in the spending plan, the overall package does not create an improved business climate in our state.
The wage increase is in addition to a series of increases that have occurred over the past few years. The wage increases are creating financial challenges for businesses, many of whom are currently struggling. Additionally wage increases lead to increases in prices paid by consumers for goods and services. Wage increases negatively impact job retention and job growth. Outpacing the federal minimum wage which is currently $7.25 places New York at a competitive disadvantage with other states when it comes to business retention and growth. We are somewhat relieved that at least the increase was tempered to a total of $12.50 an hour upstate instead of $15.00, to reflect the substantial differences in the economy between upstate and downstate. In addition, the increase will be phased in over a period of years which will help businesses adjust. Despite those changes, the fact remains that employers will have to pay more to maintain their workforce and for many that will be a business hardship.
Another substantial detriment to business is the Paid Family Leave Act. The program will begin with a $10-million raid on the Workers Compensation fund, which is already struggling. For small businesses, in particular, it can be very difficult or even impossible to hold a position open while an employee takes an extended leave of absence. For all businesses implementing the program will be challenging and costly. Holding a position open, identifying temporary support to fill the position, training the new employee and then ultimately transitioning the employee that is on leave back into the position are all costs to the employer. Just like the minimum wage there are federal guidelines for family leave programs and this is another instance of New York creating a competitive disadvantage with other states for business retention and growth. The minimum wage hike and the Paid Family Leave act will be a challenge to maintaining an environment in New York State to encourage both new business startups and investment in existing businesses. In addition to the minimum wage increase and the Paid Family Leave Act approval a proposal by the Governor for a small business tax cut was rejected.
One of our greatest disappointments with the new budget is the process under which budget bills were approved. We firmly believe that the process needs to be improved. The budgeting process should begin sooner in the fiscal year and there should be more time for the Assembly and Senate to deliberate and review proposals. Given the current process we would agree with former Assemblyman from Chautauqua County, Bill Parment, who used to say, "Getting a good budget is more important than getting an on-time budget." New York's lawmakers must find a better way to negotiate budget items ahead of the fiscal year deadline. We have serious concerns that not all of the details had been carefully articulated or even put into writing before the measures were approved. There is opportunity to get it right next year by improving committee discussion, allowing for adequate negotiation and conducting hearings to allow for an understanding of budget bills. The time has come for major overhauls in our state budget process in Albany in order to create a transparent system that truly allows our legislators to participate in discussions, ask important questions, and be able to review bills before they are asked to vote yes or no.
Despite our concerns about the business and political ramifications of this recent budget process, there were a several items in the spending plan that are very good news for Chautauqua County that Governor Cuomo, Senator Young and Assemblyman Goodell should be applauded for achieving. Most notably, there is a $200-million allocation for the new Athenex manufacturing facility in the Dunkirk area, funding to help offset the tax loss from the mothballed NRG plant, increased aid to local school districts, funding for transportation projects throughout Western New York and poverty reduction funding for the City of Jamestown. We are grateful for funds being allocated to priority projects in our region, yet remain deeply concerned about the process that resulted in a budget which will carry long term ramifications for the business community statewide.
Legislative Breakfast set for April 15
Each year the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce provides opportunities for its members to have a direct conversation with elected officials from each level of government. This year, the State Legislative Breakfast will be held April 15 at the Lakewood Rod & Gun Club. Senator Cathy Young and Assemblyman Andrew Goodell will provide their insights about legislation in Albany and be available for questioning from the audience. This event is sponsored by Affinity One Federal Credit Union, Chautauqua Institution, Cummins, Inc., DFT Communications, Jamestown Mattress Company, Nestle Purina PetCare, OBSERVER, The Post-Journal, Serta Mattress Company, Star Media Group, State University of New York at Fredonia, and WCA Hospital. The cost to attend is just $18 per person. Advanced registration is requested.
Hanover Chamber Member Appreciation Luncheon April 21
The Hanover Community Chamber of Commerce will hold its annual Member Appreciation Luncheon on Thursday, April 21 from 11:30 a.m to 1 p.m. at the Colony Seafood and Steakhouse, Main Road, Irving. Kelly Borrello, Hanover Community Chamber President, will give a brief introduction and some opening remarks. The guest speakers will be Sam Hoyt, Western Region President for Empire State Development, and Kevin Sanvidge, CEO, and Kristine Morabito, Business Development Manager, for the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency. We encourage all Chamber members to attend. This event is sponsored by Ecolab and Pinewood Cottages Bed & Breakfast. The cost is $19 which and you can make reservations online at www.chautauquachamber.org/events or call 366-6200.
Business Over Bagels: Human Resources and Social Media
Do you have questions about how to handle social media issues in your human resources department? Many employers do. To help answer those questions, instructor Lisa Powell Fortna will lead an interactive discussion covering key aspects of the evolving intersection of social media and human resource practices. This Business Over Bagels event will focus on understanding and managing benefits and risks associated with the use of social media in recruitment and employee engagement while promoting and protecting your brand reputation with employees and customers. Lisa Powell Fortna is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources and is a member of the American Society of Training and Development. She has over 20 years of experience as a manager and human resources professional and holds a BS in Business Management from Cornell University, an MS in Organizational Dynamics from the University of Pennsylvania, and an MS in Adult Education from Buffalo State College. This informative session will be held from 8:30-10am at the JCC North Training Center, Bennett Road, Dunkirk on Friday, April 27. The cost to attend is just $25 per person for Chamber members or $30 for non-members. To register, call JCC Continuing Ed at 363-6500.