Regional Councils Make Pitch for State Funds

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo presided over a day long presentation Tuesday by the state’s ten regional economic development councils, which are set to earn another $750 million in grants.

This is round two for the regional economic development councils, which have already received over three quarters of a billion dollars for projects ranging from cancer research and bio-tech to tourism boosters and downtown revitalization.

Governor Cuomo spoke before leaders from the ten regions and presented ideas for more spending projects. The governor says he’s trying to make up for years of neglect in New York, that he says helped lead to the once Empire State’s economic decline. Cuomo says governors of competing states acted as though they were “the head of the chambers of commerce,” while New York politicians sat back and waited for businesses to come.  The governor says, as a result, the state fell behind.

“We’ve learned painfully, the hard way,” Cuomo said.

The president of the State’s Business Council, Heather Briccetti, says the distribution of money to the regional councils is more organized than the past methods.

Economic development funding was often distributed by former governors and legislative leaders when each received a pot of money, sometimes totaling half a billion dollars, as part of the state budget deal. Other grants were given out in the form of member items, to projects in favored lawmakers’ districts.

“It’s not one off or ad hoc as it has been in the past,” Briccetti said.

The Business Council was releasing its annual report card of state legislators, and the group gave Senate Republicans high marks for approving a pro-business agenda. Even Assembly Democrats, who often score low on the business lobby’s rankings, improved their scores, says Briccetti. She says the business lobby gave high grades for the adoption of a property tax cap, a new pension tier for public workers, and two years of austere state budgets.  But she says the state still has a ways to go to become truly business friendly.

“The regulatory climate is tough we are still a very highly taxed state,” said Briccetti, who added overall, things are improving. “But we would like to see things continue to move in this direction.”

More New Yorkers seem to agree with Briccetti and like many of the actions — pro-business or otherwise — that Governor Cuomo and lawmakers are taking. A Siena College poll finds a record number — 56 percent — think the state is headed in the right direction.