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Business Group Praises Senate GOP Voting Record, Pans Democrats


An upstate pro-business group is out with ratings for the New York Senate and Assembly, and finds, not surprisingly, that more liberal Democrats are at odds with the group’s agenda than conservative leaning Republicans. Unshackle Upstate says that could have implications for the group’s interests if Democrats take over the Senate in November.

Unshackle Upstate ranked state lawmakers for their stance on several bills that the pro-business group supports, including Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to offer tax free packages to some new or expanding businesses near college campuses, and an extension of the Brownfields program to give tax credits for repurposing old industrial sites.  

Unshackle’s Brian Sampson says while members of the Senate Leadership coalition of Republicans and moderate Democrats ranked relatively highly on the group’s scorecard, many members of the more left leaning majority party Assembly Democrats did not. He credits the Senate coalition for stopping bills like one to allow individual cities to set their own minimum wage.

“Less negative bills are getting to the floor, things that would have had a dramatic impact on our economy here in upstate New York” said Sampson. “Versus the Assembly, which tends to put more of those socially liberal, tax and spend policies, on the floor for a vote.”

The Senate leadership coalition holds power by a narrow margin, and Governor Cuomo has already promised the minor party, the Working Families Party, that he would work to help Democrats regain control of the Senate, in exchange for the party’s endorsement in the fall elections.

Sampson says he thinks the current coalition of the GOP and the Independent Democratic Conference is a success and should remain in place.

“The Senate majority coalition in our opinion has worked,” Sampson said. “And we’d like to see that continue.”

While Unshackle Upstate did not rate candidates in the governor’s race, Sampson says Cuomo’s record is mixed. He says the governor deserves credit for four on-time budgets and holding the line on spending, as well as enacting a property tax cap. But he says he’s concerned over Cuomo’s pledge to help Democrats regain the Senate, and the priorities they might favor.

“Things like farm labor, anti-fracking – would be devastating" said Sampson.

Sampson says polls show that “taxes and job creation are key issues” for New Yorkers and urges voters to pay attention to the rankings.

The report led to a spat between Senate Republicans and Democrats.

The Unshackle Upstate survey showed Senate Republicans with the highest ratings among state lawmakers on a pro-business, anti-tax agenda. Soon afterward, Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos issued an open letter to New Yorkers, where he warned against a Democratic takeover of the chamber.  Skelos said “allowing a small, radical faction of avowed leftists to run New York’s entire state government would have disastrous consequences."

A spokesman for the Senate Democrats, Mike Murphy, shot back that “Republicans have controlled the Senate for over 50 years” and New York still has “higher taxes, a crippled upstate economy and out-of-control mandates."

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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