Delaying an increase in the minimum wage upstate, halting an expansion of farmworker labor benefits and reducing sales and income taxes are among the proposals from the pro-business Unshackle Upstate in a report meant to boost growth in the region's economy.
The report comes as upstate New York, like the rest of the country, is struggling amid the recession created by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Rather than waiting on Washington to save the day, there are things state officials can do right now that will help rebuild our economy and revive our communities,” said Brian Sampson, the chairman of Unshackle Upstate and president of Associated Builders and Contractors, Empire State Chapter.
“Unshackle Upstate’s Fast Forward agenda will give a much-needed boost to small businesses, family farms and taxpayers across the Upstate region. Our elected leaders need to get back to work and get our economy back on track.”
The group's reforms also call for an upstate caucus in the Legislature that features both Democrats and Republicans as well as a five-year ban on a longtime bugaboo for businesses, the Scaffold Law.
The upstate economy in general had struggled to recover from the previous recession and its growth was slower than New York City and the rest of the country in the past decade as some areas struggled with population loss.
The pandemic has hardly made things easier in upstate New York: 400,000 people are unemployed in the region and an analysis this month from Comptroller Tom DiNapoli's office found nearly 45 percent of small businesses have experienced a large or negative effect due to the pandemic.
“With the State facing a $14 billion deficit and local governments reeling from historic revenue losses, we need to resolve this economic crisis immediately," Sampson said. "There’s no time for finger-pointing or political posturing. We need Albany to take action now and step up for Upstate.”