2013 NFIB New York Issues

Author: Maureen Payne Date: February 15, 2013

Tax and Fee Increases
NFIB opposes any additional tax and fee increases on New York’s employers and taxpayers. Last year’s budget imposed the largest combined tax increase in our state’s history. Small business--the engine that drives our economy--simply cannot afford anymore, especially in this economy. New York’s business tax climate is already the second worst in the nation. Now is the time to decrease that burden and grow our economy, not make it worse.

Minimum Wage Increase
Throughout the 2012 legislative session, NFIB/NY fought to avoid a costly increase in the state’s minimum wage. As expected, the battle continues. Within Governor Cuomo’s 2013-14 Executive Budget proposal is yet another attempt to increase the state’s minimum wage to $8.75 an hour. This represents a 17% increase over the current federal stands at $7.25. With a stagnant economy and rising costs in virtually every facet of owning and operating a business in New York, the last policy initiative lawmakers and the Governor should be advocating is a mandatory increase in wages. It will limit the ability to operate a business, force increases in the prices of goods and service and put enormous pressure on the wage structure within every business.

Wage Theft Prevention
The original Wage Theft legislation, when enacted in 2010, fully cemented New York’s standing as one of the most anti-employer, anti-job creation states in the union. NFIB/NY believes that previously existing law provided adequate wage protection for employees in New York. However, this legislation also seemed to be motivated by the troubling belief that not only are many employers routinely cheating and engaging in “theft” from their employees, but also that the Department of Labor was failing to enforce the previously existing law.
Although, NFIB/NY would like to see a full repeal of this legislation, we are currently lobbying in support of a bill which would eliminate the employer’s annual notice requirement and instead only mandate that employer’s present information to an employee once upon hiring. Removing the annual pay notice mandate is a good step forward for small business already struggling under a heavily mandated business climate.

Scaffold Law
New York is the only state in America that holds employers entirely liable for “gravity related injuries”, a distinction that typifies its anti-business reputation and one that should disappear. Contractors, builders and other small businesses have to pay all of the damages even when the injured workers are found to have been negligent. In other words, an employee can ignore all of the safety procedures required by the employee’s boss and become injured as a result and then sue the boss for millions of dollars. This outdated Scaffold Law drives up the cost of insurance for small businesses, which is passed on to consumers and taxpayers.

This unfair law is being fiercely fought in Albany by NFIB and a coalition of business groups pushing for a new law that would make Scaffold-law more equitable. The new law would call for a comparative damages standard which would take into account a measurement of fault and divide monetary rewards accordingly.

The Wicks Law – a construction mandate dating back to 1912 – was put into place to promote competition and protect workers’ rights. Wicks Law requires that state and local government construction projects (including school district construction projects) costing more than certain thresholds in different areas of the state are subject to separate plumbing, heating/ventilation/air conditioning and electrical contracts. This requirement has proven to be one of the most onerous mandates facing local governments.
NFIB believes that Wicks Law should be repealed. Eliminating this onerous mandate will help stimulate our languishing local economics by allowing municipalities to utilize a more cost-effective approach to executing public projects, removing a major impediment to communities investing in much-needed infrastructure and other capital improvements. A compromise position would be to increase the threshold to a uniform $10 million threshold statewide.

Examination of Environmental Regulations – SEQRA Reform
The SEQRA Process employed by the State of New York has often been cited by small business owners as a main impediment in the project development process. The multiple layers and potential for multiple lead agencies makes the process slow and costly.
While NFIB strongly supports projects being environmentally sensitive, the SEQRA process stifles economic development and expansion in this State. The SEQRA process needs to be extensively analyzed to significantly improve and expedite the review process, thus allowing projects to be expedited and create necessary jobs faster. Transparency in the process should also be addressed as definitive timelines should be a priority for implementing to improve expediency and compliance.

Safe Natural Gas Development
NFIB/NY believes that by opening up the Marcellus Shale region to safe natural gas drilling, New York will produce thousands of jobs and opportunities for small business, and that it would ease the demand for foreign energy and bring down costs for consumers. In the 2011 NFIB member ballot, we asked small business owners if New York should drill for natural gas, particularly in the Marcellus Shale region. An overwhelming 73 percent of our members expressed support for drilling. The recent economic recession has led to a drastic increase in energy prices, especially oil and natural gas.

NFIB members agree wholeheartedly that the environmental and health issues that have been raised should be studied, and that every precaution should be taken to ensure the public safety. We are pleased that the Department of Environmental Conservation has developed recommendations that balance the need for economic growth with public and environmental safety.

Workers Compensation Reform
NFIB has been lobbying the legislature for years to address the flaws of the Workers Compensations System. NFIB demands improvement of the administration and operation of the workers’ compensation program, while not undermining the important reforms achieved in 2007. New York must fully implement the agreed upon medical guidelines to ensure consistency for employers and injured workers. Further, treatment protocols must be implemented to lower the cost of care and get injured employees back to work. Within the 2013-14 Executive Budget proposal, there are new and necessary reforms of the Workers Compensation system which aim to reduce costs by approximately $900 million.

Expansion of Prevailing Wage
NFIB/NY opposes any bill that would broaden prevailing wage requirements. Small business owners are troubled by the seemingly endless expansion of prevailing wage mandates, with 87 percent of NFIB members opposing prevailing wage mandate expansions in our 2009 Member Ballot. New York’s cost of doing business is already the second highest in the nation. Our state and local tax burden is the second worst in the country, and per capita state and local spending in New York is among the highest in the nation. It should come as little surprise that New York’s economic outlook is continuously forecasted to be the worst in the United States. Mandating prevailing wage for these projects would increase costs --and result in even higher costs for business and tax payers.

Unemployment Taxes
NFIB opposes an increase to the taxable wage base or increases in unemployment insurance tax rates. Taxes and other government mandates on employers have been expanding steadily, crowding out worker take home pay. This move would exacerbate that problem by further increasing employer costs, which is particularly troubling during difficult economic times. Quite simply, higher costs on employers in this economy will translate to even higher unemployment.

State Spending Cap
In our 2009 member ballot, 86% of NFIB/New York members supported a state spending cap to limit the growth of spending to 4% or inflation, whichever is less. Governor Paterson has proposed such a cap, and had one been in force over the last several years, New York taxpayers would have saved billions--and the state budget would be much closer to balance. Instead, we have the second highest per capita government spending in the nation--and the second work business tax climate to support it. A spending cap would force fiscal discipline on the state and help start the hard work of reducing the cost of our government, our tax burden and our cost of doing business.

Common Sense Lawsuit Reform
NFIB supports common sense lawsuit reform as a way to reduce New York’s crushing tax and property tax burdens, lower our cost of doing business, create new jobs and opportunities, reduce the cost of government at the state and local level and make health insurance more affordable--all at no cost to government. Common sense lawsuit reform makes senses for New York’s taxpayers, economy and citizens.

Native American Sales Tax Collection
NFIB supports the enforcement of collection of taxes from the sale of tobacco products and motor fuel by Native Americans to non-Native Americans. Under long-standing state and federal law, sales of products by Native Americans to other Native Americans are wholly tax exempt. However, many Native American owned businesses are selling products, particularly tobacco and motor fuel, to non-Native Americans without collecting the required taxes. Despite state law and court decisions requiring their collection, these taxes are not being paid and each year the state loses $1 billion in uncollected tax revenue from the sale of tobacco products by Native Americans alone. This does not even include lost tax revenue from motor fuel sales. This puts other businesses that comply with the law and collect the tax at an outrageously unfair disadvantage. The law should be enforced and these taxes should be collected.

Independent Contractors
NFIB supports the creation of simple, clear and fair of a definition for “independent contractors.” With the implementation of such a definition, business owners will know upfront whether someone is an independent contractor and be confident that they will not be fined later for incorrectly treating him or her as such.


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