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June 15, 2013

Albany's session ends with lots of flash, doesn't address recent bad news

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — ALBANY — New York's legislative session has been highlighted by flashy proposals to strengthen abortion rights, expand casinos, publicly finance campaigns, and combat corruption and sexual harassment after several scandals.

"We had a remarkable string of accomplishments," Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said last week.

But overshadowed by the flurry of rallies and public speeches, far more grave news also surfaced in recent weeks:

• Two weeks ago, a federal report showed New York's economy grew at a slower pace than the national rate in 2012. New York ranked 37th among all states in a dismal record for the state's gross domestic product for the last three years.

• State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's own reports have quietly shown much the same.

• Last week, Armonk-based IBM Corp. announced layoffs of an undisclosed number of workers.

• New York's unemployment rate was 7.8 percent in April, above the national average of 7.5 percent, though improved from 8.6 percent a year before.

• Now, Texas' Republican Gov. Rick Perry is hitting New York airwaves with radio spots claiming: "The 'new' New York sounds a lot like the old New York."

Perry is scheduled to meet with New York business leaders as part of his attempt to poach jobs and rip New York's high taxes and business regulations that have run employers out of the state for decades.

The fiscal data contrast the public face of Albany that includes the "New York Open for Business" TV commercials featuring busy, happy workers in bustling, high-tech companies.

Cuomo's late-session initiatives don't ignore the economy. He is still pushing to create three or four casinos upstate and turn college campuses into tax-free business development zones. The bold Tax-Free New York proposal would seek to entice employers into New York to align with campuses in exchange for 10 years without any business taxes, property taxes, or even income taxes for employees. College presidents and some business groups immediately supported it.

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