Legislative session delivers on multiple fronts

With the 2013 legislative session now complete, I am pleased to say that the priorities of those who live and work in the 51st Senate District were strongly reflected in the actions taken in Albany this year.

The state budget was approved on time for a third consecutive year continuing a significant transformation and end to Albany dysfunction. Moreover, the budget cut taxes, established job creation initiatives, provided help for our neediest schools, and boosted aid to our local highway departments.

The state budget will also mean tax relief for our middle class families. Over the next three years, each New York family with at least one dependent child and a household income between $40,000 and $300,000, will receive a family tax relief credit in the amount of $350. In addition, the budget extends the middle class personal income tax rate reductions enacted in 2011, which were due to expire in 2014.

Job growth continues to be a considerable concern statewide and the innovative SUNY Tax-Free Areas to Revitalize and Transform Upstate (START-UP NY) program will be another way to encourage upstate economic development by linking new businesses with our already successful SUNY campuses.

The START-UP NY program will create tax-free areas around the state’s colleges and universities. Tax-free areas will encompass vacant land or space on the campus of SUNY schools and community colleges. Under the program, businesses will be virtually exempt from all taxes for ten years, including the following:

No corporate income and no personal income taxes on business income;

No sales and use taxes on personal tangible property and services purchased by businesses;

No real property taxes due on property owned by a college or university; and

Employees working at the business will be authorized to claim a personal income tax deduction equal to the wages earned from the business in the tax-free area.

Businesses will not be eligible if they compete with existing businesses in the community that are not within the tax-free area. In addition, the legislation broadens the authority of the Mandate Relief Council to permit the council to review and determine whether regulatory mandates on businesses are unsound, burdensome or too costly. Businesses and local governments will be able to request that the renamed Mandate and Regulatory Relief Council conduct such a review of specific statutes, regulations or rules. These revisions were extremely important to me because they will provide assistance to our existing businesses that have been standing with New York through tough economic times.

I was also extremely pleased that funding restorations I fought for, that will protect our most vulnerable citizens, were approved in the final days of the session. Restoring funding to our community based agencies that serve the developmentally disabled was a priority for me. Local service providers can now continue to help families who depend on them every day.

The senate also took steps to cut unnecessary government red tape, crack down on insurance and welfare fraud, and partner with dairy farmers and small businesses to provide cost saving efficiencies. These measures unfortunately languished in the assembly, and will be battles fought another day.

I also took real steps to advance women’s equality. Protecting domestic violence victims, stopping sexual harassment in the workplace, ending human trafficking, and ensuring equal pay for equal work are important reforms that passed the senate with bipartisan support. Governor Cuomo and several leading women’s groups have already called for the state assembly to return to Albany and pass these measures so they can be signed into law.

Casino expansion is another topic which has been at the forefront for some time. The public will make the final call, something I have advocated for throughout the discussion.

Overall, the accomplishments during the 2013 legislative session are another signal that New York is making real strides to address the needs of our diverse state, advance real concerns, and tap our full potential.

Senator Seward’s office web site is www.senatorjimseward.com. Like Senator Seward at www.facebook.com/senatorjimseward.

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