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Politics

While legislature rests, Cuomo stumps

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Daniel Robison
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WNED
Governor Andrew Cuomo touts the permanency of Recharge New York, which replaces the on-and-off Power for Jobs.

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One of the less talked about provisions in the state budget is the expansion of the Power for Jobs program, which provides low-cost electricity to businesses in the name of economic development.

Governor Andrew Cuomo visited North Tonawanda Thursday to hype the program’s new benefits.

Under Power for Jobs, 500 or so businesses paid a quarter of what residential customers pay for electricity - mostly by using low-cost hydropower from upstate. The new program, re-branded as Recharge New York, doubles the amount of megawatts available for cheap.

Cuomo hopes the prospect of energy savings will act as an economic magnet.

“Businesses are more mobile than ever before,” Cuomo says. “You know, it’s not like the old days where they were cemented into a place. Businesses can leave. Businesses shop - and they shop states. And businesses will go to a state where the cost of operation is less.”

Before the state budget made the benefits permanent, the program faced an expiration date every year. Cuomo says that uncertainty kept the private sector from taking it seriously.

UB 2020: Breathing with oxygen from the governor

Also during his visit upstate, Cuomo reaffirmed his commitment to UB 2020, saying it’s a priority for his administration.

“It is a long term economic vision for western New York, which we badly need. I’m going to work as hard as I can to make it a reality,” Cuomo says. “You have many legislators and many opinions. But we’re going to work through it. I’m optimistic that we’re going to make UB 2020 a reality at the end of the day.”

After UB 2020 was dropped from the state budget, Cuomo contacted local Senator Mark Grisanti (R-Buffalo) to set up a public forum on the legislation at the capitol in early May.

Some legislators believe the measure will face better odds if its provisions are considered one by one, like changing which state entity sets tuition policy.

The legislature is currently on a two-and-a-half week break.

Labor contracts: One down, a few to go

A day after Cuomo netted his first victory in negotiating a compromise with a public employee union, he admits much work still remains to be done with other labor groups.

Cuomo convinced officials for Council 82, the union representing more than a thousand SUNY and park police, to agree to a three-year pay freeze and a larger share of health care costs.

But a similar offer extended to the Public Employees Federation (PEF) was rejected outright.

“The Council 82 contract is a fair and reasonable contract. I think it recognizes the economic reality that we’re in,” Cuomo says. “The state is basically functionally bankrupt. So if the public employees think they can get a big raise from the state, they can’t. We don’t have the money.”

If the provisions of Council 82’s deal are replicated across the rest of New York’s public employees, the state’s budget deficit would shrink by hundreds of millions of dollars and could result in fewer layoffs.

Along with PEF, the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) is operating without contracts as of April 1.

The two unions comprise a majority of the state’s labor force. 

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