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Buffalo Niagara Partnership calls for tax relief, reworked NAFTA in annual Agenda


Easing the burdens of New York State's taxes and regulations, increasing bed tax allocations to a local tourism agency and renegotiating - not repealing - the North American Free Trade Agreement. Those are just a few of the many items spotlighted on the Buffalo Niagara Partnership's annual Advocacy Agenda, released this week.

Once again, the Partnership says New York's taxes and regulations are the biggest problem for the economy. The economic development organization suggests they combine to make the Empire State's business climate the second-worst in the United States.


Within its 2018 Advocacy Agenda, the Partnership raises concerns for new legislation taking effect, Paid Family Leave. The program is funded through small employee payroll deductions, capped at 0.126 percent of wages. Partnership president and chief executive officer Dottie Gallagher Cohen says the program will be unable to keep up with the demand.

"When it was passed in Albany, it was to be paid for by employees instead of an insurance fund. That is upside-down already," Gallagher Cohen said. "There's not going to be enough money to pay for that paid family leave. We expect that burden is going to be placed on taxpayers and employers going forward."

The Partnership also criticizes the state's Excelsior college tuition program. It offers qualified New Yorkers free tuition to the state's public colleges and universities. Those utilizing the Excelsior program must, in return, work in New York State for the same number of years as tuition was provided. Failure to do so results in the "free" tuition becoming a loan that must be repaid.

Gallagher Cohen says the program also serves to put private colleges and universities at an economic disadvantage. She suggests New York should instead enhance its Tuition Assistance Program.

"We advocate for the expanded use of the TAP program, so that students can choose to go where they want to go, and really to fund some of the additional capital costs that SUNY is going to have to take this on," said Gallagher Cohen.

One of things New York has done right, the Partnership suggests, is cap property tax levies at two percent. The organization calls for making that cap permanent.

Other issues the Partnership takes on are at the federal level, including the North American Free Trade Agreement. There is rising concern President Donald Trump will move to withdraw the United States from NAFTA. Gallagher Cohen suggested instead of pulling out of the deal, the US should instead renegotiate the agreement to improve cross-border efficiency and bring regulations among the partners in closer harmony.

Trade with Canada is critical to this region's economy.

"Our supply chains between the US and Canada are very integrated," Gallagher Cohen said. We surveyed our members and almost 80 percent of them either had customers or suppliers in Canada. We want to make sure the federal government understands how important our relationship with Canada is. It's an incredible trading partner with this country and it will have a direct impact on our local economy as well."

Among its local interests, the Partnership calls for an increased allocation of bed tax dollars to Visit Buffalo Niagara to help it with tourism promotional efforts.

The Partnership also expresses its opposition to new employer mandates, mandated inclusionary zoning and expansion of the prevailing wage to private projects. The full Advocacy Agenda may be viewed by clicking here.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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