Nearly 150 small business leaders from local chambers assembled to hear about economic development efforts in Albany, County initiatives to help local businesses and preserve bus service and solutions to address mandate relief. The LI Business Council, Nassau Council of Chambers, Suffolk Alliance of Chambers and Vision Long Island jointly hosted the first of its kind meeting.
Newly appointed Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino publically embraced the revitalization process in downtown Hicksville that has been moving forward with the coordination of Oyster Bay staff, the Hicksville Chamber and local civic associations. as well as working to bring revitalization to the Town though Transit Oriented Development. Supervisor Saladino spoke on how he was working to clean up toxic plume in the town and also covered initiatives in the building department to go with his new Commissioner, including same-day permitting, which is a big shift from previous policy. He then closed his update by noting that the town was moving forward with ethics reform and an independent ethics board governed by residents.
NYS Senator Phil Boyle, Chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business, spoke about reforms to NYS economic development funding bringing more local input into the decision making process of grants and project selection. He also committed to advancing the Small Business Savings Accounts legislation that has passed the Senate over the last two years with the prospect of Assembly support this year. “One of the bills that we discussed was the Small Business Tax Deferred Savings Account Legislation that I took over as sponsor from former State Senator Jack Martins,” he said. “This bill … would create a savings account for those difficult times. We’ve seen in recent years the upturns and downturns of the economy. This would allow you to put money aside, tax deferred, for those difficult times for your small business. It’s passed the Senate the last two years in a row, I’m expecting it to pass again in the next month. We’ve got to give a boost to get it past the Assembly, so give a call to your local Assembly people, Republican or Democrat, make sure they get on board. It’s a common sense piece of legislation.”
He also addressed the current budget and the process for securing economic development funding for Long Island communities. “We need to have input that really counts. We’re looking to the regional councils and input from the state legislature,” said Senator Boyle. “To have an equal number of representatives on the council from the local legislators who know the area the best. And when they vote, we’re talking about a 50/50 split. The governor’s going to have 50% of the say and the legislators and local folks will have 50% of the say. That’s the way it should be.”
Also at the meeting Nassau Deputy Presiding Officer Richard Nicollelo and Legislator Laura Curran stood together in a bipartisan display of support for additional funding with specific actions to keep Nassau buses running despite looming cuts. Nassau County Legislator Laura Curran spoke on the current situation with NICE bus and the funding shortfall from the legislature. She noted that there were several possible solutions to the problem, including various pots of funding that were possible to make up the $6.8 million cut in subsidy to the bus service. Curran noted there are leftover pots of funding from previous bus grants that had yet to be used as well as a rainy day fund with over $30 million currently sitting in it. She also noted that what is really necessary is a dedicated revenue stream with possibilities including a fee to use ride share programs and a portion of the MTA payroll tax dedicated to the buses. Republican Deputy Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello also spoke on the busses, echoing the need for funding and a dedicated revenue stream. He noted that the Nassau County Interim Finance Authority was still required to sign off on any decisions but they would work on this issue in a bipartisan fashion.
Suffolk County Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory updated the group about his Next Generation Committee to keep young people on Long Island and his study on the feasibility of a dragstrip in Suffolk County.
Former Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy spoke clearly about crushing mandates to local taxpayers with remedys such as pension reform, striking the triborough amendment and other laws that cripple local governments. He talked about the cost of mandatory arbitration as the system in its current form is causing pensions to dry up and hurts future workers. His group the Center for Cost Effective Government has developed legislation sponsored by NYS Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick to address some of these issues.
Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy spoke to the room about his office’s efforts to revamp how they work with local business. He noted that they have been moving away from processing paper vouchers, of which they would see over 225,000 per week, to integrate electronic transfers instead. These efforts will help to speed up how business interacts with his office as well as bring the County into compliance with state law. He also noted that Suffolk County is working harder than ever to track fraud, with the introduction of a hotline last year that will allow anonymous tips. Through this system they were able to initiate 8 audits following fraud investigations into local perpetrators. He also spoke on the need to reform internet sales tax to help local business and noted that hotel/motel revenue needs to be dedicated to tourism in order to keep visitors and funds flowing into the island.
Suffolk Chamber’s Co-Chair Gina Coletti announced downtown revitalization grant programs and Nassau Chamber’s President Francesca Carlow delivered an impassioned plea to shop locally and avoid internet purchases. Luiz Vazquez of the Long Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce talked briefly about his organization’s current efforts and welcomed a partnership with the LI Business Council and the varying local chambers. Local Villages officials from Farmingdale, Babylon and Freeport joined the meeting seeking solutions and partnerships to grow their downtown business districts.
The LIBC, Suffolk Chambers, Nassau Chambers, Vision Long Island will join the 90 member LI Lobby Coalition will include over 20 chambers of commerce and follow up on many of these items at their annual Lobby Day in Albany in two weeks.
Special thanks to LIBC Co-Chairs Bob Fonti and Rich Bivone for convening this important forum. Thanks as well to Michael Harrison for his assistance preparing us for LI Lobby Day.
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