Winner Says Answers Needed for Local Economic Development

George Winner

April 30, 2010

Albany, N.Y., April 30–State Senator George Winner (R-C-I, Elmira) warned today that continued inaction on the 2010-2011 state budget could lead to thousands of upstate job losses, including many in the Southern Tier, by the elimination of the Empire Zone economic development program set to take place 60 days from now.

Similar concerns are also being expressed by many upstate employers on the fate of the state’s low-cost economic development power programs, which are set to expire in mid-May.

”Continued inaction has the potential to shove a lot of upstate jobs out the door,” said Winner, who highlighted the future of the Empire Zone program as one of the top issues facing Governor Paterson and legislative leaders.

Under the provisions of last year’s state budget, the Empire Zone program is set to expire on June 30, 2010.  The fate of many of the program’s key incentives hinges on yet-to-be-determined legislative action. 

Winner said that while negotiations between the governor and legislative leaders were supposed to take place well before June 30th on how best to replace the Empire Zone program, there’s been very little public discussion on where those negotiations stand, their success is far from guaranteed given the leaders’ inability to settle differences on the state’s overall financial plan, and, in the interim, local economic development leaders are left with no long-term economic certainty to offer potential employers interested in expanding or relocating to the region.

“What happens on June 30th?  It’s a looming job-killer for our region.  You can't change the rules in the middle of the game, go back on your word, and ever expect New York to be seen as a secure place to do business and create jobs.  That’s just common economic sense,” said Winner. 

Winner, who in the past has developed and sponsored reforms to strengthen the Empire Zone program, singled out the program’s elimination for particular criticism during last year’s budget debate and went as far as to sponsor a legislative amendment to reject the changes until a new economic development strategy was worked out and put in place by the governor and the Legislature. 

Winner’s amendment was rejected by the state Senate Democratic majority. 

“State leaders risk making the border of New York State one long ‘Going Out of Business’ sign,” said Winner.  “They’re on the verge of eliminating upstate New York’s number one economic development tool, with nothing set in stone to replace it, during the worst economic crisis any of us can remember. Low-cost economic development power is set to expire.  Business tax increases are being discussed.    How does it make sense?  How is it fair or balanced to upstate’s ability to attract and retain local jobs?  It could stop local economic development dead in its tracks.  It’s unthinkable to not be focused on actions that encourage economic growth at this time.”