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Consumer confidence rising across New York

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New Yorkers are predicting more shopping in their future.

Consumer confidence round-up
It's consumer confidence time!  That means media across the state is taking a look at the monthly survey of consumer attitudes and willingness to spend, and charting whether their particular part of the state rose or fell on the index.

In Buffalo, the Buffalo News says the region "rebounded."  But the city is still in the middle of the pack of those surveyed - it came in fifth, out of nine cities.  Consumer confidence also rose in Rochester according to the Democrat and Chronicle, but was still below the mid-point in the index, in which an equal number of people are confident as are ... non-confident?  Uncertain? 

Binghamton had the lowest confidence of New York's big cities, reports the Press & Sun-Bulletin, but it was still a slight improvement over the previous year's reading.

While we're looking at numbers, we might as well note that AP reports in the Times Union that retail sales were up in December, completing a six month streak.  But that's matched by an increase in the consumer price index, led by the rising price of gas (again AP, in the Times Union). 

Paging Dr. Anybody
The Buffalo News reports that Western New York has a critical shortage of specialists in emergency rooms.  More than two thirds of the hospitals said they'd reduced services because they couldn't find specialists.  The stats come from a survey conducted by the Healthcare Association of New York State:

Of the association's 220 member institutions, 111 hospitals, including 11 of about 30 in Western New York, responded to the survey. Statewide, 33 percent of hospitals surveyed by the Healthcare Association of New York State, an advocacy group, indicated they reduced or eliminated services in 2009 because of a shortage of physicians, compared with 24 percent in 2008.

You can see the full report here.

Workers striking
The giant inflatable rat is making an appearance outside of Momentive Performance Materials in Waterford, outside Albany.  Workers are striking against what the union says are "disrespectful" behavior on the behalf of management.  Momentive is a former GE facility that makes materials like epoxies and sealants for the auto and construction industries.

New degree in health information
The Rochester Institute of Technology and the University of Rochester are teaming up to offer an M.S. in "medical informatics," reports the Democrat and Chronicle:

RIT will take care of program administration, but students can enroll at either institution. Classes will take place at RIT and at the University Rochester Medical Center. The diploma will bear the seals of RIT and the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. "This began as an idea between faculty," said UR Provost Ralph Kuncl, who holds a medical degree. "That's the way it should be. Those kinds of ideas to create programs shouldn't start from the top and come down."

Property tax cap progress
With the governor signaling he's on board for a property tax cap, a business advocacy group is feeling optimistic about the chance for its passage.  Unshackle Upstate is pushing for the 2 percent annual cap - what its director tells the Democrat and Chronicle is a "blunt, aggressive tool."

Meanwhile Laura Northrup notes an interesting item in Unshackle Upstate's 2011 legislative agenda, in the Times Union's Capitol Confidential blog: docking state worker pay during hard economic times.

Federal fracking chemical disclosure
Gannett's Washington bureau reports that nine of New York's Democratic representatives are pushing natural gas drillers to disclose the chemicals they use for hydrofracking.  The New Yorkers are among 46 members who sent a letter to the Interior Secretary.

Low-cost energy program powers down
A program that provides low-cost energy in Oswego County could be on the way out, reports the Post-Standard:

The PILOT agreement contained a provision for Entergy to supply 10 megawatts, or 10 million watts, of low-cost power per day to the Oswego County Public Utility Service. That group offers the low-cost electricity to new and expanding businesses in the county with an eye toward creating and retaining jobs. Any power left over is available for municipalities and school districts. During the last five years, the program saved businesses and municipalities an average of $2.3 million a year. Oswego Hospital saved an average of nearly $56,000 a year during the last five years. Felix Schoeller Technical Paper in Pulaski saved an average of $75,000 a year.

Negotiations over the contract that expired on December 31 are private, but the county says Entergy "hasn't responded favorably."

SUNY tuition increase?
The AP reports that SUNY leaders are worried that the state's budget deficit could force tuition increases:

The Cuomo administration, now working on the state budget proposal, hasn't signaled if the state's $11 billion or larger deficit will prompt an increase or if the governor's "no new taxes, period" promise will also mean no tuition increase for more than 600,000 students. Assembly Higher Education Committee Chairwoman Deborah Glick fears the budget could reduce student financial aid and fail to provide adequate funding. Senate Higher Education Chairman Kenneth LaValle said Thursday the state must invest in the State University and City University systems that are its economic engines, not use them to balance a budget.

Housing boom
Downtown Albany is looking at more downtown housing, as investors seek to convert a vacant building into apartments, reports the Times Union:

The planned conversion is across from the ongoing condominium construction at 17 Chapel St. It's also just a short distance from the former Boyd Printing Co., where a Clifton Park developer has proposed apartments. Together, the projects are renewing hope that the neighborhood could fulfill wishes for a real enclave of residential living in central Albany.

And finally...
This has pretty much zero to do with our beat but it's still worth sharing.  It turns out Taylor Swift's new music video was shot, in part, in Broome County.  The Press & Sun-Bulletin reports that Swift likely didn't film her scenes locally, but that producers were looking for a "semi-rural" place with "snow on the ground."

So now we present a face-off:  newcomer Swift, versus Binghamton University alum Ingrid Michelson.  Weigh in with your pick in the comments!

Taylor Swift, "Back to December"

Ingrid Michaelson, "Be OK"

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