Press-Republican

January 11, 2013

State of the State overview comes to Plattsburgh

DAN HEATH
Press-Republican

PLATTSBURGH — Additional competition-based funding opportunities are coming in proposals outlined in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2013 State of the State address.

New York Deputy Secretary of State for Local Government Dierdre “Dede” Scozzafava was in Plattsburgh on Thursday to deliver the first of several local presentations on the address. 

“The governor is committed to making sure you don’t have to rely on coming to Albany to get information,” she said.

His message has four core elements, Scozzafava said: attract good jobs and economic growth, create a world-class education system that prepares the next generation for the future, establish fiscal integrity and discipline and restore New York as the progressive capitol of the world.

Many of the proposals are in the early discussion stage, she said, and will become more clearly defined as the governor develops his preliminary budget in March.

INCUBATOR HOT SPOTS

Scozzafava said colleges and universities in New York spend the second-largest amount of money on research, behind California, yet only attract 4 percent of the nation’s venture capital, compared to 47 percent in the Golden State.

In addition, New York only ranks 22nd in industry-sponsored research.

To address those shortcomings, Cuomo proposes a competitive process to choose 10 higher education/private-sector high-technology incubator “hot spots.” Those zones would provide exemption from business, property and sales taxes.

A $50 million Innovation Venture Capital Fund would provide funding to five winners chosen each year for the next two years. North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas said the region could benefit from the relationship with Clarkson University in that area, which he called a “gem.”

UNIQUE NEEDS

Market NY contains marketing initiatives to increase upstate growth. Those include Taste-NY to promote New York-grown and -produced products, with creation of stores across the state.

A $5 million advertising competition would reward the best regional marketing plans. 

One of the underlying elements of the State of the State address is Cuomo’s clear, continuing recognition of the North Country and other regions as having unique needs, Douglas said.

He said the way the governor has embraced the Adirondack Challenge, a national whitewater paddling competition, is evidence that he is listening to ideas that come from the various regions across the state.

Douglas said the North Country Regional Economic Development Council welcomes these additional competition-based funding plans. That is evidenced by its success as a Top Plan designee during the first two rounds of funding.

UNEMPLOYMENT COSTS

Cuomo also proposes to reduce the cost of unemployment and workers compensation insurance to businesses. Reforms could save businesses up to $1.3 billion while also increasing benefits to workers for the first time since 1999, he said.

Scozzafava said initial discussions have aimed at a reduction in the administration of those programs. Douglas said talks have included labor leaders, as well as business advocates such as Unshackle Upstate and the Business Council of New York.

EDUCATION

An extension of the number of days students spend in school each year and universal pre-K are proposed as ways to increase student achievement. Scozzafava said the pre-K initiative, with five hours per day for five days a week, is tentatively slated to receive state aid for school districts that opt in to provide that full-day program.

Another proposal would recognize some teachers as high performers, eligible to receive $15,000 more a year to mentor other teachers to become more successful educators.

CONDUIT TO ALBANY

The governor also called for an increase of the minimum wage to $8.75 an hour. Nineteen other states have a higher minimum wage than New York’s $7.25 an hour, Scozzafava said.

That is not slated to be done in phases, at this time, she said, but again, that depends on the upcoming budget negotiations.

Scozzafava said what’s important about these regional presentations is not simply what she tells those who make up the audience.

“It’s me, listening, me taking your questions back to Albany,” she said. “The role you play in that is very important.”

Email Dan Heath dheath@press republican.com