Items of Interest or Pending Action/Support
Below is a comprehensive description of our ongoing action items and positions.
- By Executive Order, the President recently made it a requirement for federal contractors to provide Paid Family Leave to their workers. This puts an incredible burden on business owners who live on government contracts.
- Additionally, Senator Kristen Gillibrand has proposed a bill to make Paid Family Leave a nationwide initiative. This proposal is another well-intentioned proposal that fails to see the significance of the cost to business owners. Small business owners and nonprofits will be unable to afford this additional cost, which will lead to a significant rise in unemployment.
Minimum Wage Increase – position taken by Board of Directors
- Following the Governor’s proposal, Federal lawmakers have discussed raising the minimum wage nationally. On paper this is a great solution for the millions of workers who currently make minimum wage. Unfortunately, this creates a tremendous cost to the employers of both for- and nonprofit organizations. Many large companies, such as the fast-food industry, will utilize modern technology and bypass the need to pay workers $15 dollars per hour. However, nonprofits will not be able to replace workers with machines, so they will either have to cut staff or significantly cut the services they provide to our community.
Increase in Salary/Overtime Threshold
- The Chamber is advocating reform for a new law, which took effect January 1, 2016. The law forces employers with salaried workers making less than $50,000 dollars per year to be paid overtime if they eclipse 40 hours per week. Unfortunately, this is another well-intentioned piece of legislation that overlooks the significant contributions of the business community. This new law will force employers to cut back worker hours, close stores early and possibly even lay-off employees in order to comply.
Support to Reauthorize the Export-Import Bank
- The Chamber supports the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank because it provides American businesses the opportunity to compete in foreign markets by providing the necessary financial tools to do so.
- The Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) is the official export credit agency of the United States. EXIM is an independent, self-sustaining Executive Branch agency with a mission of supporting American jobs by facilitating the export of U.S. goods and services.
- When private sector lenders are unable or unwilling to provide financing, EXIM fills in the gap for American businesses by equipping them with the financing tools necessary to compete for global sales. In doing so, the Bank levels the playing field for U.S. goods and services going up against foreign competition in overseas markets, so American companies can create more good-paying American jobs.
- Because it is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States, EXIM assumes credit and country risks that the private sector is unable or unwilling to accept. The Bank’s charter requires all authorized transactions to demonstrate a reasonable assurance of repayment; the Bank consistently maintains a low default rate, and closely monitors credit and other risks in its portfolio.
- The Chamber stands with the US Chamber of Commerce. We believe in enacting legislation to transform our broken immigration system into one that drives job creation and economic growth.
Immigration reform should include:
- Reforming the legal immigration system, including both green card reform and implementing practical temporary worker programs for high-skilled and lesser-skilled workers as well as the agriculture industry.
- A practical federal employment verification system for employers
- A legal status for the estimated 11 million undocumented people already in the U.S., allowing them to emerge from the shadows, creating a stable workforce.
- Improving enforcement of our borders, while facilitating the flow of trade and travel.
- Consolidate federal agencies and provide states the ability to help local and county governments create shared services to provide better and more efficient government.
Scaffold Law Reform
- The Chamber is committed to reforming the Scaffold Law. We understand the importance of worker safety; however, the fiscal burden of absolute liability falls on businesses, driving up the cost of doing business in New York. This ultimately infringes on the competitive ability of businesses to compete for projects across state lines. We support reform from an absolute liability standard to a negligence-based standard.
Unemployment Insurance Reform
- Due to the great recession, employer contributions to the New York State Unemployment Insurance Fund have been insufficient to cover the benefits paid out to individuals. As a result, the Fund is grossly underfunded, which has required New York to borrow $3.5 billion from the federal government. In order to repay this loan and avoid significant interest charges, New York has recently enacted a number of reforms expected to save the state $200 million.
- The first change went into effect on October 1, 2013. The change penalizes employers who are tardy in responding to the Department of Labor’s (DOL) request for information. This change is required under federal guidelines to state unemployment insurance funds.
- The second change concerns the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA). All New York employers pay a FUTA tax based on the number of individuals they employ within the state. The tax rate is based on the employer’s “experience rating,” but is assessed on the first $10,300 of each employee’s earnings. This figure gradually rises every year so that by 2026, the FUTA tax will be based on the first $13,000 of each employee’s earnings.
- The third change primarily affects individuals. If an individual is improperly awarded benefits or is overpaid benefits, the individual has 12 months to pay back the money. If an individual fails to do so within the 12 months, the DOL will assess a 15 percent monthly penalty on the overpayment or $100, whichever is higher, and the individual will forfeit four days of future unemployment benefits for every week he or she was overpaid.
- The fourth significant change concerns those situations where the individual receives severance pay from his or her prior employer. If the DOL determines an individual receives severance within 30 days after the employment relationship ends and the severance pay is an amount greater than the maximum benefit rate, the individuals will not be able to collect unemployment benefits until the severance pay is exhausted.
Workers Compensation Reform
Items to be considered:
- Currently the minimum compensation rate for dates of injury on or after May 1, 2013 is $150, except if the employee’s wages at the time of injury were less than $150 per week, in which case the employee will receive his/her full wages. The rate is not tied to an index.
- Section 25-A closed to new claims on January 1, 2014. Section 25-A allowed for certain claims to be transferred to the Fund for Reopened Cases. Claims became eligible to be transferred to the fund if at least seven years had passed since the date of injury and at least three years had passed since the date of the last indemnity payment. If a carrier’s petition to establish a 25-A claim was approved, the fund took over direct payments to both the claimant and the health care providers, allowing for closure of the claim file. The single assessment was used to keep the fund’s assets at the minimum statutory level.
- In lieu of an arbitration committee, a single arbitrator process was introduced to resolve medical bill disputes involving less than $1,000 or greater than $1,000 if requested by the provider. The arbitrator is a medical provider selected by the chair of the same practice area as the medical services in dispute.
Unfunded Mandate Relief
- Unfunded Mandates are well-intentioned pieces of legislation New York State expects county and local governments to fund.
- We are advocating, alongside Dutchess County to decrease the financial burden New York State places on county government. 70 percent of the county’s budget is automatically allocated due to Unfunded Mandates. We believe if New York State passes a law; they should be able to fund it.
MTA Tax Relief
- The MTA payroll tax is a tax currently implemented in New York State to NYC and surrounding counties utilizing MetroNorth, including Dutchess County.
- This tax raises the price of doing business in Dutchess County, effectively making it difficult to compete with other counties in the Hudson Valley and New York State as a whole.
- The chamber is firmly against the MTA payroll tax being included into the five year $32 billion 2015 Capital Project, which would make it a permanent tax for at least the next 30 years. The state could approve or deny this Capital Project some time between now and June 2016.
MTA Forensic Audit
- Following a 2013 Forensic Audit of the MTA, the state Comptroller’s office found 58 of the 78 dually employed MTA employees broke the code of conduct policies currently in place. They also identified 11 MTA employees who were fraudulently reporting to be at two places at the same time. These instances equate to an overpayment of $42,247 during the audit period. There were 16 Transit employees who, because of their dual employment, were violating time limits for consecutive hours worked within a 24-hour period. Accordingly, they were potentially putting public transportation users at risk by being overworked and possibly overtired. In addition, MTA employees on military leave were overpaid an aggregate of $65,722
- The Chamber strongly recommends following the Comptroller’s recommendations and further calls on the state to keep these Audits in place to continue to ensure the MTA is not misusing public funds.
Our recommendations are:
- Prepare comprehensive policies for employees who are seeking or have outside employment or are on military leave. A stipulation should be included requiring approvals and appropriate conduct in such circumstances, as well as the ramifications for those who do not comply with the policies.
- Distribute policies to staff with appropriate guidance, monitor compliance and take follow-up action as appropriate.
- Recoup the $108,000 in overpayments identified in the report, and take appropriate disciplinary action where fraud was perpetrated by employees and abetted by their supervisors.
Term Limit Reform
- Move from 2-year terms to 4-year terms with a cap of 8 years served.
State formula for fairly funding school districts
- The Chamber believes we need to be able to provide a properly funded education for our youth, while taking away the burden that the current education funding system has put on local businesses. Currently, New York State uses a Base Cost and Formula Factors to determine funding for schools.
- A base cost is the annual funding—minus additional factors for student and district differences—required for a student to meet state academic standards. The base cost is usually calculated on a statewide basis and is used for all school districts in a given state.
- Student Formula Factors are when states make a concerted effort to direct additional funding to students who require additional resources. They do this by including student factors in funding formulas. Each factor is given a funding weight, or multiplier. For example, a student poverty factor may have a weight of 1.5, or one-and-a-half times the base cost. If a state’s base cost was $10,000, for instance, and a 1.5 poverty weight was applied, each school district would receive $15,000.
- One of the biggest battles in Albany each year is the “GAP” funding levels. This refers to the amount of money missing between the base cost and the formula factors. The GAP varies every time the State checks in on the school district’s adequacy goals.
- This funding formula requires a large amount of tax dollars, the education system is supposed to receive the benefits from the NYS Lottery; however, what has been done is elected officials have taken money away from education to fund other projects, rather than keeping both the original amount of education funding and the lottery money. This leads to funding gaps, which are made up of local tax dollars including local businesses. This funding system puts a clear disadvantage to NYS business.
Vocational Skills Funding
- Many cannot afford the rising cost of colleges or do not feel college is in their best interest. Due to the high volume of individuals from the baby-boomer generation entering retirement, manufacturing and vocational training are more important than ever.
- By funding and providing more options for individuals to train as Certified Production Technicians, HVACs, plumbers and electricians we will be able to provide steady, good-paying jobs for our younger generation.
- The Chamber’s Workforce Development Center and Youth One Stop programs have been at the forefront of this effort by encouraging participants to receive state-certified certificates and placing them in apprenticeships and full-time employment.
FIT Chargebacks to the County (Unfunded Mandate)
- We believe in keeping local money in local schools. In New York State, if a student wants to attend a community college in a county different from their residency, their home county is responsible for the costs.
- The Fashion Institute of Technology(FIT) is considered, by law, to be a community college. Since they are a specialty college, students from all over New York State attend the college each year and upstate counties are responsible for a portion of the cost of residents’ attendance. These costs (known as chargebacks because they are "charged back" to the county of origin) go beyond those of normal community colleges, because of FIT’s physical location and because it is authorized to offer bachelor’s and master’s degree programs.
- Legislation was passed in 1994 to reimburse counties for their portion, but it does not require the state to makes such funds available. The state has not done so in recent years, leaving county taxpayers on the hook.
Planning Board Streamlining, Regulation Relief, Collaboration and Consolidation
- Currently, in Dutchess County, there are developers wanting to revitalize old buildings in the City of Poughkeepsie, build new structures in Amenia, and create tourist attractions in Fishkill. These projects have the ability of bring millions of dollars into our local economy; however, planning boards have made it extremely difficult and have proven very costly to do business in Dutchess County. We are looking for a solution to expedite the building process, while also maintaining the smart development and protecting historical sites.
Item Pricing Law – Repeal
- The Item Pricing Law in Dutchess County is currently facing a lawsuit between Market Fresh Poughkeepsie vs. Dutchess County.
- This law has cost food stores a lot of man-hours and money to take the time to individually price thousands of items within a store; meanwhile, the unit price is clearly placed in front of items on the shelf. Customers are able to see their item being scanned and are given a receipt showing their purchases to prevent overcharging. This is another unfair burden on businesses that attributes to the rising costs of doing business in Dutchess County.
- In Dutchess County, it is the role of this Chamber to aid any business attempting to make Dutchess its home or trying to expand. We also want to get more involved with larger projects, such as those striving for REDC funds to help grow Dutchess into a must-live destination.
- The Chamber is in full support of creating a Business Improvement District (BID) in Downtown Poughkeepsie. This project would function with the help of groups such as the Poughkeepsie Alliance and Middle Main to fund projects within the district’s boundaries. This would assist projects that are inadequately funded by the local and county governments. The purpose of the additional levy is to increase safety and improve the existing landscape with the idea of attracting new businesses and consumers to the area.
Pelton Manor Project – Advocacy
- A project developed by LAC members Wayne Nussibickel and Steve Tinkelman, proposes taking the land formerly occupied by the Poughkeepsie Nursery and develop rental units for young professionals.
- This will provide affordable housing for young professionals to keep the young college students from Marist, Vassar and DCC here in Dutchess County to work and develop ideas and families.
Poughkeepsie Alliance Support and Advocacy
- An activist group comprised of local business and community leaders with the purpose of creating a better Poughkeepsie. This group advocates for common sense projects to help reduce crime, recruit new businesses and help turn Poughkeepsie into a must-visit destination.
- Transit-Orientated Development (TOD Plan) plays a very significant role in the Dutchess County economy. As a major outlet for people downstate, the MTA provides a system of transporting many tourists to Dutchess for day-trips.
- The Chamber encourages any municipality with a train station to formulate TOD Plans to build easy access to local businesses and tourist attractions.
Safety and Security
- More police on the streets is the first step to creating a safer environment to encourage business growth.
Jail Expansion and Rate of Recidivism
- The goal of the Chamber is for those released from jail to not go back, which can be prevented by ensuring there are community systems to support and encourage individuals to better their lives after release. This includes a jail expansion to include the proper mental health facilities some inmates require.
Live-In Superintendent-Common Council Proposal
- The Common Council recently proposed making it a requirement to have a live-in superintendent at apartment complexes holding nine or more tenants.
- The Chamber has advocated against this because it will raise rent costs.
- SNUG is a performance-based violent crimes reduction tactic. SNUG employs former and reformed gang-members as case managers. They work with those who are interested in getting away from the violence.
- The City of Poughkeepsie and Department of Community and Family Services are currently working on grant proposals and funding outlets to bring this program to Poughkeepsie.