Seward: Need Fair Competition In Recreation Industry

James L. Seward

March 20, 2008

Saying the time has come to level the playing field for private owners of recreational facilities, Senator James L. Seward today unveiled legislation to create a state panel that would evaluate whether governmentally-owned recreational facilities constitute unfair competition to golf, ski, camping and other recreation businesses operated by private entrepreneurs.

"Public facilities like state ski areas or golf courses are under no obligation to make a profit, pay workers' compensation or unemployment insurance," Seward noted. "They are funded by the taxpayers, are able to purchase equipment using state contracts, pay no sales taxes and are often exempt from state health or environmental regulations that raise costs for private entities. In essence, taxpayers subsidize lower costs for public facilities, which then compete with private operations paying taxes, workers' comp, and trying to at least break even."

Seward's bill, S. 6835A, would establish a state commission to examine unfair competition in the outdoor recreation industry. The panel would be charged with evaluating the extent of the competitive edge enjoyed by government facilities and offering recommendations and methods that would promote fair competition.

The outdoor recreation industry is a significant segment of New York's economy. The state's private golf, skiing and camping facilities contribute millions of dollars to the economy, pay local property and school taxes, and employ thousands of workers. Ski facilities Hunter Mountain and Windham Mountain employ 2,000 workers, support payrolls of $12.5 million together, and pay state and local taxes of $3 million. Their economic impact is estimated to exceed $200 million. Local golf courses and campgrounds swell those numbers. The public ownership of similar facilities, offering cut-rate admissions divorced from the need for a revenue stream needed to sustain them, raises competitive issues that should be examined.

"Not far from Hunter Mountain and Windham we have a state ski facility that offers discount prices that a private company struggles to match," Seward noted. "We need to look at the effect of government competition on the businesses paying property taxes, creating jobs, and supporting our schools."

The bill has been filed in the assembly as A. 10123.