Shout it from the rooftops, sing it from the hills. Of the 50 states, only California has a climate less hospitable to growing jobs and cultivating business than New York.
I am not trying to cast a cloud on anyone's Sunday. But there is no arguing with the recent survey of CEOs in Chief Executive magazine. The battle for American jobs is largely a war among the states. New York is getting its butt kicked by the low-tax likes of Texas and North Carolina. Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and a legion of state legislators duck and cover.
David Willis, CEO of Baltimore's CRW Parts, said that job-friendly states “understand that the private sector pays for the public sector, and make it easy for the private sector to grow.”
Blame our woes on everything from the high cost of salaries, benefits and pensions for public-sector workers – cops, firefighters, teachers – to growth-smothering rules like the Scaffold Law; from our hefty Medicaid public-health bill, to the price of multiple layers of state/county/city/town/village government – as seen in the salaries and benefits of everyone from redundant clerks and assessors to an army of elected officials.
The consequence is the high sales, school, property and income taxes needed to prop up our public-sector load. Which is why CEOs avoid New York like a contagious disease –and why upstate has been bleeding jobs and people for decades.
Against the anti-business tidal wave, Cuomo has launched a rowboat. He last week dangled skid-greasing dollars for “distressed” local governments that voluntarily merge, consolidate services or cut elected officials. I applaud the intent. But if Cuomo wants to go for the gusto, he would channel his inner Scott Walker (except for the collective-bargaining assault) and force-feed the changes – and the relief they would bring to taxpayers from Amherst to Alden.
Cuomo has extra arm-twisting muscle in upstate cities like Buffalo, which are basically wards of the state. One-third of the city's $485 million budget is covered by Albany, as is more than three-quarters of the bill for city schools. Tax-slicing reform should be the price that Buffalo and other staggering upstate burgs pay in return for living on the state's dole.
Sadly, politicians roadblock reform. The bulk of our state legislators are essentially sponsored by public-sector unions. When he runs, Cuomo depends on the backing of the local politicians that we have too many of. Which is why, despite all of the political lip-flapping, reform is treated like an invasive species in Albany.
The consequences are obvious. More than 31,000 people fled Erie County in the past decade. Until the business climate warms, more will follow.
“The cost of government here acts as a stop sign that reads: Business not wanted,” said civic leader Kevin Gaughan, who forced successful smaller-government referendums in six WNY towns.
Say it loud: We're No. 49. Thank heavens for California.