PUTNAM POSTING: The State of Our State

Jennifer Maher | February 2017

Jennifer-Maher_squareOur governor chose an unusual delivery for his 2017 “State of the State” message, visiting multiple sites as opposed to the customary presentation in front of a joint session of the State Legislature and invited guests.  Some of his proposals have garnered attention from the business community.

His signature proposal, to make state-run college tuition free for middle-class families, has drawn mixed reactions ranging from overzealousness to fears of a cynical market share grab for SUNY schools at the expense of private institutions. Some point out that SUNY education is one of the best bargains available in the college world today, so why subsidize the most affordable college option? Business leaders seem to agree that increased investment in K-12 education may be less controversial and more effective—perhaps by extending the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative.

There are other, low-cost education possibilities, for example encouraging more privately-funded P-Tech programs or holding open houses at area schools so companies seeking future employees can showcase career opportunities. It’s also vital that more emphasis be made on those available career paths that DON’T require expensive four-year degrees, because they are so readily and easily attainable.

The governor’s proposals for clean water infrastructure and water quality protection, and enabling access to ridesharing throughout the state have met with much more acceptance across the business community, because access to vital natural resources such as water, and transportation resources such as Uber and Lyft are needed to spur business growth throughout the state. This is money well spent and should pay big dividends.

The governor also discussed the property tax burden on residents and businesses. Everyone seems to agree that this burden must be reduced, however there are numerous policy disagreements.  Unfunded state mandates, onerous regulations and long-obsolete legislation continue to drive up costs, reduce operating efficiency and compromise New York’s competitiveness versus other states.  Business needs include long-sought Scaffold Law and Workers’ Compensation reform, repealing the Wicks Law and the aforementioned school district funding inequities.

Governor Cuomo rightly wants to reduce the burdens facing all New Yorkers. Let us find the right combination of public and private investments and strategies to bring about prosperity in the Empire State.


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.