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OPINION: Upstate Business Survey Should Be a Call to Action for Albany

By Will Barclay


New York’s business community has expressed deep concerns regarding the direction of the state and its financial outlook, but it does not appear businesses will be getting much relief anytime soon. As such, the most-recent iteration of the Siena College annual Upstate New York Business Leaders Survey indicates a grim outlook from CEOs trying to navigate New York’s rocky economic waters.

The survey’s results are startling. Of those asked, only 19 percent of upstate CEOs expect economic improvements in 2023. Further, just 23 percent of respondents reported an improvement in economic conditions from last year, and 54 percent of respondents said things have already worsened year over year. Inflation, which is still running hot at 6 percent, continues to wreak havoc on the business community, and three-quarters of those asked indicated they are having trouble filling open positions.

With the pandemic’s lockdowns and restrictions behind us, one would expect a much-greater sense of optimism about an economic rebound moving forward. Assembly Republicans repeatedly stated that the state’s businesses should not be forced to return to the oppressive climate that existed before the pandemic hit. Clearly, there’s much more work to be done.

 Overall, this survey paints a bleak picture; the economy is getting worse and there does not appear to be any end in sight. If you pair the survey results with the state’s shocking outmigration figures — the state lost more than 400,000 people in the past two years — it is clear something drastic needs to be done. Unfortunately, the one-party regime led by Gov. Kathy Hochul does not appear to be interested in addressing the root causes of these results. Making matters worse, if the governor had her way the upcoming budget would actively add fuel to the proverbial economic fire hampering the business community.

 The governor is proposing we spend $227 billion next year. The Assembly majority’s one-house budget proposes
$232.9 billion. Senate Democrats are hoping to spend $235.9 billion. To put those numbers in context, New York Democrats are calling for 50 percent more in spending than Florida’s proposed budget, yet New York has 2.5 million fewer people. Overweight, bloated budgets strain businesses and consumers alike, and when you consider the outmigration and survey results mentioned above it is fairly easy to put the pieces together. This approach does not work.

 Our Assembly minority conference has advocated for common-sense measures that reduce the tax burden on the business community, cut needless red tape and facilitate the hiring and training of desperately needed professional-skill workers. One need not look further than the business leader survey to see the value of these proposals. We have a responsibility to facilitate the success of the taxpayers living and working in New York, and I am calling on the governor and her legislative counterparts to take these survey results seriously. We have been on the wrong path for too long, and everyone knows it. Unless changes are made now, we will see similar, if not worse, results when Siena polls these business leaders next budget season.      

William (Will) A. Barclay, 54, Republican, is the New York Assembly minority leader and represents the 120th New York Assembly District, which encompasses all of Oswego County, as well as parts of Jefferson and Cayuga counties.