Albany, N.Y.— "We welcome the words, but legislative action is the final measuring stick this year," State Senator George H. Winner, Jr. (R-C, Elmira) said today in response to Governor Eliot Spitzer’s second State of the State message to the Legislature.
Winner welcomed, in particular, Spitzer’s emphasis on keeping property tax relief and upstate economic development at the top of the 2008 state government agenda.
"These are the twin pillars of future success in the Southern Tier-Finger Lakes region and across upstate," said Winner. "But words alone won’t build the bridge to that future. It’s time to put into practice what’s being preached. We need action in 2008."
Winner noted that the first true signs of the governor’s commitment to action will come a few weeks from now, on January 22, when Spitzer is scheduled to unveil his proposed 2008-09 state budget proposal.
The Senate Republican Majority recently set the stage for this year’s property tax relief discussion by proposing a comprehensive short- and long-term strategy to, among other initiatives, significantly enhance New York’s property tax rebate program and establish a Blue Ribbon Commission on Property Tax Reform to further explore ways to restructure the property tax system over the long run.
Winner said that he and his Senate Republican colleagues will also continue to emphasize upstate economic development throughout the coming session. An upstate economic development strategy co-sponsored by Winner and approved by the Senate last year, called "Upstate Now," received positive reviews from business leaders across New York. It’s a comprehensive plan calling for reducing taxes, energy and health care costs for employers; providing upstate with a 21st century economic infrastructure; making upstate an international leader in new and emerging technologies; strengthening the work force; and enacting reforms to make the upstate region more business-friendly and economically competitive.
As chairman of the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources (LCRR), Winner said that he would be using the joint, bipartisan commission to continue to advance rural economic development policies that he believes are vital to the future of the region and all of upstate, such as the expansion of high-speed Internet to rural areas. Winner sponsored a new law in 2006 directing several state agencies to issue recommendations on ways to expand high-speed Internet access to rural areas and other underserved areas.
Winner said that the LCRR has estimated that at least 750,000 rural New Yorkers do not have high-speed Internet access through either cable modem, DSL, fiber, or wireless service.
"We can keep sounding alarms. We can keep reading study after study, hearing report after report, and giving speech after speech," said Winner. "But we’ve reached the point now where it’s only the action that matters. Let’s hope the governor’s commitment to action is strong enough to break through the inevitable resistance from downstate Assembly leaders to such an upstate focus in New York government. We’ll soon find out."