By Mark Scheer
Niagara Gazette — One of Andrew Cuomo's top assistants in Western New York brought the governor's 2013 budget message to Niagara Falls on Wednesday.
Sam Hoyt, regional president for the state-run Empire State Development Corp., told a crowd assembled at the John Duke Center that Cuomo's latest spending plan builds on his administration's earlier efforts to restore fiscal responsibility and integrity to Albany and economic prosperity to New York as a whole.
Hoyt, who has been advancing the governor's budget agenda while on a tour of the region in recent weeks, said the administration believes it has set a good example and tone in attempting to rebuild the image of the Empire State as a progressive place where ingenuity is rewarded, job growth is job one and elected officials work together to solve key issues facing their constituents.
"That has changed," Hoyt said, referring to the dysfunction that has marred Albany politics in recent years. "Both houses are working together. Budgets are getting done on time."
The governor unveiled his $142.6 billion state budget last month. It represents a 5.3 percent increase over the current spending plan. During his overview Wednesday, Hoyt said it does not include any new taxes, one-shot revenues or other budgetary "gimmicks" and instead seeks to maintain present spending levels by promoting more efficiency within state agencies, better debt management and reform measures for costly programs like Worker's Compensation.
While the state is facing a $1.3 billion deficit this year, Hoyt said Cuomo remains committed to the expansion of programs designed to help struggling Western New York communities like Niagara Falls. He referenced last year's promise by Cuomo to deliver $1 billion in economic development incentives to the Buffalo and the surrounding region and said in 2013 the governor wants to do more to help by, among other things, advancing a multi-faceted marketing program aimed at increasing sales of locally produced goods.
Hoyt said employment figures show upstate continues to lag in terms of job growth. The region, he said, currently has a 5 percent rate of job growth compared to 11 percent statewide, 16 percent in New York City.
"We've got to do much better on upstate numbers," Hoyt said.
Part of Cuomo's economic agenda for 2013 involves the development of new so-called "Innovative Hot Spots." Hoyt said Cuomo's plan envisions 10 total "hot spots" in regions across the state, including one in Western New York. The incentive areas would support industries working on research that could lead to promising advancements in areas like health care or technology. Entities located inside the zones would be eligible for tax breaks, business assistance services and a portion of a $50 million pool of government venture funds.
Hoyt said the idea is to generate more research and development successes in the private sector, noting that while New York spends the second most in the nation on research projects, only 4 percent of the nation's venture capital is being captured here.
Cuomo's agenda also calls for better correlation between available jobs in New York and the type of education and training being offered to New Yorkers. Hoyt said the state currently has 210,000 positions available through its statewide job bank in large part because companies offering them struggle to find residents capable of handling the work involved.
"There can't be a disconnect between what they are teaching at the colleges and the jobs that are available in the region," Hoyt said.
On the topic of education, Hoyt said Cuomo is committed to creating a "world-class" system in New York, noting that the governor's spending plan calls for an $889 million, or 4.4 percent, increase in school funding. To go with that, Hoyt noted that the administration has pushed for "performance-based" measures in schools, including a teacher evaluation system, and is now looking to increase the length of the school year.
"We can't just continue to gh at the problem and expect better results," Hoyt said.Big Red number 5 Percentage job growth in upstate New York, compared to 11 percent statewide