PUTNAM POSTING: Assessing the Business Value of Divided Government

Jennifer Maher | July 2016

Jennifer-Maher_squareWhen (if ever) is it acceptable for business community leaders to weigh in on the political makeup of the state Legislature? According to a recent article by POLITICO New York’s Jimmy Veilkind, Heather Briccetti thinks the time is now. The leader of the Business Council of New York State (BCNYS) has maintained for some time that preserving an upstate-downstate balance in state government means supporting Republicans in upstate districts in order to offset the predominantly Democratic representation downstate.

Last fall at the BCNYS annual meeting, Briccetti pointed out that “Republicans, generally speaking, are from Upstate and from Long Island and the Democrats—the vast majority are from the metropolitan New York City area.” Veilkind’s September report forecast potentially difficult circumstances for Upstate, as Briccetti said, “If the Democrats regain control of the Senate, that means both houses of the Legislature will be controlled by leadership from New York City, which means Upstate and Long Island will be in the minority.”

As the 2016 legislative session concluded, she again expressed concern about this Upstate-Downstate political disparity, saying, “I don’t think there’s a full awareness of the stark differences in the economic conditions of Upstate versus New York City,” according to Veilkind’s latest POLITICO article. Despite the tension between the Republican and Democratic camps, the BCNYS President/CEO views this as a geographic and not a political issue, and this seems reasonable given the unique and divergent needs of the different communities.

Navigating such treacherous political waters is not easy for any business community leader, but Briccetti has proven to be particularly adept at such matters. An accomplished lawyer who lives on a farm in the Capital Region, she has been willing to take criticism while pushing fervently for causes deemed important to her organization. We would do well to pay attention to her guidance regarding Upstate-Downstate balance in our legislature.

Jennifer Maher
Jennifer Maher is chairwoman, the Putnam County Business Council and currently serves as the president of the Putnam/Westchester Chapter of the New York State Commercial Association of Realtors. She is also the Chief Operating Officer, Managing Broker and Partner of J. Philip Real Estate.