OP-ED SENATOR GREG BALL: NEW YORK HAS FALLEN TO THE BACK OF THE PACK
I recently returned from an Economic Development Tour in Austin, Texas and while the focus was on jobs and economic development, I took time most days to run the 8 miles or so around the city’s lake.
Austin is a fit city and as I ran around the lake, I was repeatedly passed. The competitor in me took notice. Indeed, Texas is moving, and they are moving fast, but not just on the trails that wrap around their lakes. Texas is moving economically – and New York better take notice.
The first thing you notice is new construction everywhere. And unlike in New York State, the construction is not exclusively public projects. There is private investment spurring private construction and development everywhere. Smartly, the public sector is keeping pace investing in their infrastructure and building new bridges, roads and public works projects.
I went in search of the key factors that make Texas appealing to economic drivers and job producers from around the world. I quickly realized Texas government works hand in hand with entrepreneurs and innovators to streamline economic development. In fact, in the 2013 Thumbtack.com U.S. Small Business Friendliness Survey, Texas was rated A for overall friendliness, while New York trailed the pack with a D+ rating.
In meetings with key business and political leaders I came away with three key deliverables New York must enact to ensure we stay viable as a state: 1) Public-private partnerships 2) Cutting red tape and 3) Supporting job creators. While New York has become the “exodus” state, Texas has grown in population by 20.6%, according to the 2012 census, which translates to over 1,000 new residents every single day – we do not have time to waste.
Public-private partnerships (P3) have proved very beneficial in Texas. Austin City Hall is an example of this government innovation. The city developed a new city hall with mixed-use commercial space. The project benefits both the public interest and private business ventures while limiting the financial responsibilities of taxpayers.
The state government has also been able to utilize recently passed legislation to remove financial responsibility from the taxpayer while ensuring critical public works projects are completed. This legislation saves Texas taxpayer’s significant sums of money, all while ensuring high paying jobs for Texas and completing important projects of concern to the public.
New York could easily embrace P3 legislation and use it to properly complete the Tappan Zee Bridge project. In one fell swoop, such an action would create more than 50,000 good paying local jobs. New York based pension funds, endowments, and other investment mechanisms could invest right here in the Empire State. We could deliver a fully transit ready bridge while ensuring good paying jobs for New Yorkers. I urge Governor Cuomo and all government leaders to join with me in supporting public private partnerships, alleviating tax payer liabilities and ensuring our economic growth, immediately.
Reduced regulation and red tape is another bright spot for Texas. We have heard about it for many years in New York, but great projects and economic opportunities are delayed by years of government intrusion and strict approval processes. In Austin a typical major development project usually takes about a year and 1/2 to be approved. A similar project in New York can take 10 years, or more for final approvals to break ground.
Jobs, jobs, jobs. It needs to be our main focus right now in New York. Texas has created a prosperous and business friendly state. Businesses of all sizes and types are looking to employee people with varying professional backgrounds and experiences. Providing appropriate tax breaks and job credits to employers is the first step that needs to be taken. This business friendly environment is clearly reflected in their unemployment numbers. In February of 2013, Austin ranked as one of the best cities for employment with an unemployment rate of 5%, compared to New York’s 8.8% rate.
In our most recent budget we were able to include tax credits for businesses that employ veterans. We must go much further though. Making the employment of New Yorkers a worthwhile task is something our state government can easily do. Texas rewards job creators; it is time for New York to do the same.
New York is the Empire State with so much to offer. Many say our best days are behind us. If we continue at the rate we have been going that very well could be the case. Texas offers a model that can help turn things around. We can bring back jobs and economic activity to our state.
To my colleagues in the legislature, to this good Governor and to all local elected officials: As citizens of the Empire State, the choice is ours. This is our moment, and time is of the essence. Tinkering around the edges will only slow the blood flow, it will not halt the ongoing decline. To stop being ranked, year after year, as 50th in all the wrong ways, we must immediately change our tax climate, redirect huge resources to critical infrastructure, pass innovative funding mechanisms like public private partnership legislation and streamline our planning and environmental reviews to help builders, developers and job creators do what they do best, create jobs.
Maybe some in government like being lapped, I don’t. Let’s get the Empire State back on track and moving in the right direction. It’s time to lead the pack, once again.
For more information, please contact Joe Bachmeier at (845) 200 9716.