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Local News

April 24, 2013

'Unshackle Upstate' director speaks to local group

New York State’s budget is a case of “the good, the bad and the ugly,” Brian Sampson, executive director of Unshackle Upstate, a business lobbying group, told an Otsego County audience Tuesday morning.

Speaking before about 50 members of Citizen Voices, a local pro-business group, at the Carriage House in Oneonta, Sampson, praised the budget for making changes in the unemployment insurance and worker’s compensation programs that he said will benefit business and labor and for extending a middle-class tax cut.

But he also criticized it for increasing the minimum wage and extending an energy surcharge.

Sampson said the jury was still out on some other initiatives, such as changes in the Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities.

“We’ve been very clear that we’d rather have a late good budget than a bad on-time budget,” Sampson said, adding that the two budgets preceding the latest were were good and on time.

“I think this year, it was on time,” he said.

Sampson praised the budget’s funding of the state’s 10 Regional Economic Development Councils, which provide money to development projects within their regions.

“We believe that the decisions should be done at the community level, not in a tower in Albany or down in New York City,” Sampson said.

He also said that reforms in unemployment insurance and workers compensation were positive developments that would benefit business and labor in the long run.

Sampson said Unshackle Upstate had long opposed increases in the state minimum wage.

“This is really, for us, an upstate issue,” he said. “When you look at the bulk of minimum-wage earners in the state of New York, they are not in what’s classically referred to downstate — that beyond the Tappan Zee Bridge (between Rockland and Westchester counties).”

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