State budget pluses and minuses

At the time of this writing state budget bills are being voted on in Albany. As is always the case, the new state budget is a mixed bag for the business community – containing some opportunities and some new challenges.

Some temporary relief from the current skyrocketing price at the pump will be a seven-month suspension of the state’s gas tax. The gas tax holiday, to take effect June 1, will be a welcome move. Governor Kathy Hochul said it would save businesses an estimated $585 million.

State funding for the new Buffalo Bills Stadium is on the docket. The measure authorizes the construction and allows state funding to be invested into the project, which is seen as an economic driver for Western New York.

The budget plan calls for the state to invest $1.2 billion to provide bonuses for frontline healthcare workers and increases the minimum wage for home healthcare workers by $3 an hour. Details surrounding these measures have yet to be announced, but they are seen as welcome news by healthcare facilities that are struggling to hire and retain employees in the wake of the pandemic. The budget bills also include $2.4 billion to improve the state’s healthcare infrastructure – although details remain unclear on that.

Also on the workforce front, legislation to increase eligibility for childcare subsidies is aimed at expanding access to childcare. The package calls for raising the eligibility from 200-percent of the federal poverty line to 300-percent. It will also provide $343 million for childcare providers and increase the reimbursement rate from 69- to 80-percent.

Bars and restaurants will be allowed to make to-go drinks legal again – for a three-year period. They will not be allowed to sell full bottles of wine or liquor and will only be able to sell drinks with the purchase of a “substantial” food order. In addition, the new policy allows for

For the education sector, the state budget increases total school aid by more than $2 billion for a total of $31.5 billion. Increases to the State University and City University of New York system top $400 million, while part-time college students will be able to apply for $150 million in the Tuition Assistance Program.

The budget increases spending dramatically, but also includes an earlier than expected implementation of a middle-class tax cut. The phased-in tax reduction was not set to be fully implemented until 2025 when it was authorized in 2018 but will now come in the 2023 tax year. These cuts are expected to apply to households earning between $27,000 and $349,000.

New York’s Film Production Tax Credit program will be extended to 2029. The program currently provides credits of up to $420 million annually to encourage film production in the state.

The budget deal authorizes a $4.2 billion environmental bond act that will go before voters in November. Much of the money would be used to strengthen infrastructure systems such as water and sewer systems against the damaging effects of powerful storms.

Also in the plan are authorization for additional casino licenses, bail reform legislation, ethics reform, a residential tax credit for converting to geothermal energy, and much more.

Sincere Thanks for Flexibility and Commitment

The Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce has been hosting a State Legislative Breakfast for more than 15 years, offering an opportunity for our local member businesspeople to meet with and hear firsthand from our local elected officials in Albany. Never has it been quite what it was this past week.

As the legislature and Governor continued to meet in Albany to negotiate a budget package past the April 1 deadline, it became clear that Senator George Borrello and Assemblyman Andrew Goodell would likely not be able to be in the room for our long-scheduled event. But two years of employing technology to bring people together taught us all a few things, and with some excellent help we made the program work – both for our attending guests in the room at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Jamestown and for the Senator and Assemblyman.

We cannot thank everyone enough for their flexibility in helping to bring immediate and important information to our audience, and for the commitment of our lawmakers who went out of their way to appear on screen and answer questions.

Sincere thanks to the Senator and Assemblyman, to our moderator John D’Agostino from The Post-Journal and OBSERVER, to our hired technical guru Zach Stahlsmith from Zach of All Trades, to all of our sponsors, and to the DoubleTree for working with all of us to make it work. Additional sponsors for the event were Chautauqua Institution, Jamestown Community College, Jamestown Mattress Company, Media One Radio Group, OBSERVER, The Post-Journal, Serta Simmons Bedding, the Small Business Development Center, and UPMC Chautauqua.

We are grateful to all who took the time to attend and participate in this unique event and hope you will join us for other upcoming legislative events. The Chamber’s annual County Executive Breakfast is set for June 3 with special guest PJ Wendel. More details will be announced soon.

Spring membership drive in the works

For the first time since 2019 the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce is planning a spring membership drive, with some special events and promotions for local member businesses. The drive will begin the first week in May in observance of National Small Business Week with some important recognition for small businesses.

We plan to wrap up the drive with our Business After Hours Beach Bash at Sunset Bay Beach Club in Irving on June 9 – with prize drawings, networking, food, and lots of fun! If you are a small business owner in Chautauqua County and want to know more, please reach out to the Chamber staff at (716) 366-6200 or (716) 484-1101.


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