Gov. Andrew Cuomo covered a lot of ground Tuesday afternoon in a day spent delivering news of investment in upstate jobs and infrastructure.
First, Cuomo announced 230 new jobs in Batavia with the Massachusetts-based dairy giant Hood repurposing a yogurt production facility, formerly occupied by Muller yogurt, a joint venture of PepsiCO and Theo Muller group, a German dairy company. The partnership was part of Pepsi’s attempt to take the company into more health conscious areas of the food industry. The venture dissolved in 2015 after failing to compete with other yogurt producers and the facility closed, leaving 170 people without jobs.
Two hundred-plus miles and a couple hours later, the governor announced demolition and construction plans for a new, more modern train station in Schenectady. The new Schenectady Station will be modeled on the Schenectady Union station, which stood on the same location between 1910 and 1969. The station announcement comes on the heels of a $181 million dollar track upgrade to the Empire Corridor which runs from New York City to the Capital Region before heading west to Buffalo. The governor described it as a new entry way to the city that has seen substantial upgrades to the downtown areas as well as the boon of Rivers Casino.
“The economy is the engine that pulls the train,” the governor said, in an analogy that made much more sense the second time he made it at the Schenectady train station. “And if the economy is running and you’re creating jobs, then young people have a future, then businesses are coming, people are paying taxes.”
Both speeches had a tone of reconciliation between business interests, the middle class, which was hit hardest as manufacturing left, and state government. The governor expressed regret that state government has neglected upstate for “a long, long time.”
“State government in Albany was too focused on downstate New York,” Cuomo said in Batavia. “And it was upstate New York that needed help. It was upstate New York where the businesses were hemorrhaging and the manufacturing economy was over and upstate New York needed to recalibrate and the state government was nowhere around.”
This disregard for upstate is a trend the governor is seeking to reverse.
Citing a need to retain young people in order for the state to remain competitive, the governor said the best way to do this is to expand economic opportunity in regions of the state where it has flagged in recent years.
The first step is to reverse what Gov. Cuomo called “a hangover New York arrogance.”
‘”Well we’re New York. The businesses will stay here. Where else are they going to go?” There are actually other places they can go,” said Gov. Cuomo. “You look at a map. You will see around the state of New York other shapes. Squares, a triangle, those are called other states. If you force people, they will leave New York and we have essentially forced people and it’s been anti-business, high tax environment, high regulation environment. And we changed that.”
The governor also cited reductions in government spending, and the subsequent lowering of tax rates, as key to cultivating the economic growth mainland New York hopes to see in its search some sort of parity with the global economic hub that is the city of New York.
“We have reduced state spending to record historic lows,” said Cuomo. “What does that mean? Year to year increase in the state of New York government in our budget has been 2 percent or less for 7 years.”
This self-imposed spending cap has led to, what the governor believes, is an economic playing field in which upstate will finally be able to compete.
“Everybody in the state of New York pays a lower tax rate today than they did 7 years ago. Everyone.” said Gov. Cuomo from Schenectady. “Everyone pays a lower tax rate, middle class up to $300,000, lowest tax rates since 1947. Not adjusted with the cost of the inflation, no gimmicks, lowest tax rate since 1947. Corporate tax rate? Lowest since 1968. Manufacturing tax rate? Lowest since 1917. So we can say to business, ‘We’re new. And we’re different.’ And that’s a new reality for the state government.”