Wednesday, January 03, 2007

New York governor unveils agenda to revive upstate

New York governor unveils agenda to revive upstate

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer on Tuesday announced a series of initiatives to spark economic development upstate, including a three-year, $6 billion property tax reduction plan.

On his second day in office, the Democratic governor unveiled "The Renew New York Agenda," which also includes more state aid to upstate schools and to distressed upstate cities and towns.

Details of these and other initiatives will be provided later this month in the executive budget presentation for fiscal 2008, which begins on April 1, according to a statement by the governor.

"We are making a commitment at the start of the new administration to do something about a long-standing problem that affects millions of New Yorkers," Spitzer said in the statement.

Spitzer said there has been a decades-long decline in upstate New York, which has lost numerous manufacturing jobs.

To reverse the decline, he promised to put into effect the three-year, $6 billion property tax reduction plan, which targets most benefits to middle-class people who have been leaving the region.

During the last decade, the upstate has lost more than 30 percent of young people between the ages of 25 and 34, according to the governor's statement.

Spitzer's property tax relief plan follows a similar proposal by state Senate Republicans unveiled last week. The Republicans want to provide $6 billion in tax relief over the next two years.

The governor said his administration will also expand state aid to municipalities, but added that the new aid will be tied to critical belt-tightening measures to ensure long-term fiscal stability. He promised to significantly increase investment in education for distressed cities and towns under a new school-aid formula.

Other measures include appointing an economic development chair for the upstate, helping small businesses by reducing workers compensation and health care costs, creating a fund for stem cell and other research, and launching an initiative to provide universal broadband Internet access.