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NYS economic agenda uncertain as senate recount continues

New York State Senate Chamber.
Holley St. Germain
via Flickr
New York State Senate Chamber.

Even after the recount is done and the election is resolved, the New York State Senate might still be deadlocked on several high profile pieces of economic legislation.

Here’s a quick recap: More than two weeks after Election Day, three Senate races are still too close to call with control of the Senate majority hinging on the results.

Currently the Senate has 29 Democrats and 30 Republicans.  That’s a dangerous sort of majority, according to Skidmore College professor of government, Ron Seyb.  He says disputed elections (like the one that’s still ongoing) lead to anger on both sides of the aisle.  So even if the recount ends with one party having a majority (rather than a dreaded 31-31 split), it’s unlikely that the two sides will be willing to work together.

“There’s a majority and there’s a working majority. One or two seat majorities – it’s not even credible to the other party that you’re in the majority.” Seyb tells the Innovation Trail. “The obvious consequence is paralysis. The more uncertainty you have the more difficult it will be to address the financial problems,” Seyb says.

Since it’s not clear who will lead the next Senate, it’s also unclear what sort of legislative agenda will get taken up in the New Year.  Blair Horner, with the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), says each type of Senate would have very different priorities:

“They represent different coalitions or groups. Generally speaking, Republicans will probably be as sensitive to the public employee unions as Democrats would be. But they would be less sensitive, generally speaking, to the concerns of environmental groups and consumer groups and more responsive to the needs of the business community.”

Horner admits that it doesn’t always play out that way, but he says history can inform us about the future.  For example, he says Republicans tend to be more sensitive to the needs of upstate’s rural regions, since that’s where the majority of constituents who elect Republicans live.

Scott Reif, press secretary for the Senate Republicans says if his party takes over the majority, the Senate will also be pushing more incentives (such as tax breaks) for businesses to create jobs.

“We understand the need to reduce spending to balance the budget. We can work with Governor Elect Andrew Cuomo on that. We also think it’s very important to provide tax relief. It’s critically important that we help businesses create jobs. Part of the job creation package will include the innovation economy in New York State,” Reif says.

As for a Democratic Senate, spokesman Austin Shafran says they would likely stick to the legislative agenda they’ve pursued in the past – more dollars for programs like training for high tech jobs and start-up incubators, and loans for the construction of new bioscience laboratories.

Innovation Trail alumnus Dan Bazile is former reporter for WMHT in Albany. He has covered a wide range of topics, from town board meetings, to the September 11th terrorist attacks.