In last week's column, I mentioned the staggering personal and financial devastation felt by New York communities that had weathered Hurricane Irene's wrath. Now, two weeks after the storm, the economic impact of Hurricane Irene on 21 counties, along with countless local governments, businesses and farms across our state, has become much clearer. As local clean up and recovery efforts continue, the storm's aftermath is a sobering reminder of how our citizens and economy can be negatively affected by such a powerful storm.
HURRICANE IRENE CAUSED $1 BILLION IN DAMAGE TO NEW YORK STATE
Initial estimates calculate Hurricane Irene's financial impact at $1 billion, with some $45 million in damage projected just for New York's family farms and farmland. This $1 billion estimate does not include indirect economic damage caused from businesses that lost power or the fact that commerce was severely limited due to storm-related flooding and destruction to roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure. I expect that figure of $1 billion will likely climb much higher in the weeks and months ahead once we have an opportunity to assess the full extent of the storm's effects.
REDIRECT $50 MILLION IN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT FUNDING TO HELP IMPACTED COMMUNITIES, BUSINESSES & FARMS REBUILD
To help impacted communities repair, rebuild and recover, I believe we need to get funding out of the state's administrative pipeline and flowing directly into hard hit regions as soon as possible. This is precisely what I requested in a recent letter to Governor Cuomo, asking that he redirect $50 million of the $200 million in economic development funding from the administration's Regional Council Initiative. The $50 million would assist distressed communities, businesses and farms in their recovery efforts. If ever there was a time to redirect a portion of state economic development funding to help New Yorkers get back on their feet, now is that time!
Providing targeted, timely financial assistance to localities, businesses and farms that were among the hardest hit by Hurricane Irene will accelerate recovery efforts, strengthen the economy and support private sector job creation.
My proposal would help bypass any bureaucracy that could slow down or stall recovery efforts. Cutting through Albany's red tape is a critical step in assisting storm-impacted communities, local businesses and farms in their effort to move forward after the storm.
TRAVELING TO WASHINGTON, D.C. TO MAKE THE CASE FOR MORE JOBS & RECOVERY ASSISTANCE
On Thursday, I traveled to our nation's capitol to make the case for more jobs and for New York to receive its fair share of federal disaster relief. On the jobs front, I met with Congressman John Boehner, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and asked for help resolving the federal government's Unemployment Insurance Interest Assessment Surcharge that imposes a $95 million tax on New York's job creators. I made the case with Speaker Boehner that this surcharge would further damage New York State's already struggling economy.
I also advocated for New York receiving immediate emergency relief to help all our distressed communities, businesses, farms and families that had been devastated by Hurricane Irene. I described how so many New Yorkers had lost their homes and businesses, and that emergency relief for the Empire State cannot afford - under any circumstances - to be tangled up in federal red tape or sidetracked by Washington's political partisanship.
HEARING THE PRESIDENT'S JOBS SPEECH IN-PERSON
As the guest of area Congressman Tom Reed, I also had the personal privilege of attending the Joint Session of Congress when President Obama outlined his job creation plan to the American people. There were positive elements to the President's plan that would aid job creators, including an extension of the payroll tax cut and investments for infrastructure, both of which are commendable ideas. The President also called for an idea that I have been promoting - simplifying and reforming the tax code (in my case, New York State's overly complex, cumbersome and costly tax code) - to encourage job creation and investment. All of these are good ideas necessary to jumpstart our economy.
PROVIDE CERTAINTY FOR JOB CREATORS
However, what is needed most - right here in New York State, and throughout America - is a climate of economic certainty that promotes confidence in the future. Confidence is contagious and a key factor in encouraging job creators to start hiring again. Restoring economic confidence requires putting the brakes on excessive taxation, regulation and litigation policies that destroy jobs and hurt job creators. We need to remove and repeal government's regulatory barriers to job creation and find common ground on proven ideas that will grow the private sector and get our economy moving again. More private sector jobs should be "job one" for Congress, the President, Governor Cuomo and our state Legislature.
As always, constituents wishing to discuss this topic or any other state-related matter should contact my district office at (315) 781-2030, or e-mail me at email@example.com.