For the first time since Andrew Cuomo has been governor of New York, he separated his State of the State address and executive budget rollout. Why? Well, unfortunately, the state is facing a whopping $6.1 billion budget deficit. How this is resolved will be priority number one in Albany during the budget season. Redesigning how the state administers Medicaid and getting local governments to pay more towards the system is a specific way the governor will reduce the deficit and balance the budget, making the progressive goal of Medicaid for all unlikely. That said Governor Cuomo laid out his 2020 legislative agenda, what he called a bold progressive strategy. Some of the important points for small business owners and those in the trucking industry are:
- Legalizing the adult use of cannabis- After last year’s failed efforts to legalize recreational marijuana, it is obvious that this would be a 2020 legislative agenda priority. The governor proposes creating a new Office of Cannabis Management to specialize in cannabis regulation – overseeing the medical, adult-use and hemp programs. The proposal will administer social equity licensing opportunities, develop an egalitarian adult-use market structure and facilitate market entry through access to capital, technical assistance, and incubation of equity entrepreneurs. It is vital that road safety and employer protection concerns are considered before legalization takes hold.
- Climate Change:
- Passing a $3 billion ‘Restore Mother Nature’ Bond Act – The bond would go towards habitat restoration and flood reduction projects.
- Banning Single-Use and Packaging Styrofoam Products.
- Expanding the Electric Vehicle Industry in New York- a multi-pronged electric vehicle initiative, a plan to reduce emissions from residences and commercial buildings and a major workforce development initiative.
- Build a Robust Network of EV Chargers Throughout the State
- Invest $100 Million in Green Bank Financing
- Retrofitting homes and Businesses to Lower Carbon Emissions
- Strengthening Offshore Wind and Onshore Solar Industries
- Lowering Tax Rates for Small Businesses- Reducing the corporate tax rate for small businesses from 6.5 percent to 4 percent; tripling the current income exclusion for farmers and sole proprietors; making the investment tax credit refundable for farmers; repealing the penalty on S corporations for underpayment of estimated taxes. This is all wonderful but small businesses in this state are hammered by increased fines, fees, penalties, and unfunded mandates which neglects much of the impact of such tax cuts.
- Expanding the Excelsior Scholarship, another component of the 2020 legislative agenda. New York’s tuition-free college program, would raise the eligibility threshold from $125,000 to $150,000 of adjusted gross family income for New York’s families. By increasing the threshold, more than 230,000, or nearly 58 percent of New York resident students will go to a SUNY or CUNY college tuition-free. This is a perfect opportunity to steer students into much needed and high paying jobs in the trades.
- Enacting legislation to ensure that all workers have Paid Sick Leave- Businesses with five to 99 employees will provide their employees at least five days of job-protected paid sick leave per year and businesses with 100 employees or more will provide at least seven days of paid sick leave per year. Smaller businesses, with four or fewer employees, will guarantee five days of job-protected unpaid sick leave to their employees every year. This was a major and controversial fight in New York City, expect to see the same sort of fight in Albany.
- Protecting the gig economy workers-If this bill emulates what California passed and what New Jersey proposed, there would be major unintended consequences to the regional economy.
The governor must release his executive budget on January 21st and the state budget must be passed by March 31st. Much will happen from now till then but the priorities have been set.