For the Recorder
Last week, the state Legislature passed an on-time, balanced state budget. I supported most of this budget because it will help drive economic growth by providing $1.1 billion in new tax cuts for middle class families and $300 million in tax relief for small businesses that will create jobs. But while these measures represent positive steps forward, much more needs to be done. Other initiatives I championed that were not included in the final budget would have led to even more job creation and tax relief for hardworking families in the communities I represent.
For example, despite the fact that outrageous utility bills are stifling job growth and hurting middle class families, this year's budget extended the 18-a utility surcharge that adds hundreds of dollars to our utility bills each year. I am proud that I voted to end the 18-a surcharge immediately and bring real relief to our economy, but unfortunately, the Republican majority voted to extend the tax. The small businesses, farmers and homeowners in my district deserve better, and I will continue fighting to reduce the cost of doing business and increase the quality of life in our communities.
That is why I am introducing a package of bills that will stimulate our local economy and create a better climate for job growth. The initiatives I am proposing are grounded in common sense. When we help local industries that employ New Yorkers in our communities, the entire region flourishes. When we reduce onerous taxes and bureaucratic red tape, small businesses and entrepreneurs prosper and grow. When we invest in our infrastructure, we attract new jobs to our area and build a brighter economic future.
The agriculture industry alone generates more than $31 billion annually in New York state. To help small businesses and family farmers grow and thrive, I proposed legislation that will provide low-interest loans for small farmers to improve their property, purchase up-to-date equipment, and restore their farms in the wake of natural disasters. With these measures, our region's true job creators will have access to the capital they need to invest and hire more employees.
Growing the upstate economy is going to take a comprehensive approach and will require vision and long-term investments in our regional infrastructure. This is why I proposed an initiative to provide incentives to companies that install new broadband service to rural and underserved areas.
Thriving rural communities require a strong local economy and good schools with all the educational opportunities that students need. Without sufficient broadband service, neither will be possible. My common sense initiative will encourage businesses to invest in areas currently being neglected by our government and provide the foundation for much needed economic development.
For New York state to have a prosperous future, upstate communities must be given the tools necessary to grow and thrive economically. For too long, rural communities have been forgotten and have suffered as a result. The job creation package I proposed will facilitate greater investments by small businesses and farms, and ensure our children are better equipped to succeed in the new economy.
The recently passed budget had some good first steps to help our region, including the increased school aid I have been fighting for since I was first elected. But I know that much more is needed. I will continue fighting to address the issues facing our communities while working to improve the regional economy and put New Yorkers back to work.
CECILIA TKACZYK is the New York state senator representing the 46th Senate District.