Spitzer and the Upstate Economy
The RBA and its partners in Buffalo and other parts of the state have been talking for a year about policy prescriptions designed to boost the region's economy. Their agenda, called Unshackle Upstate, parallels Spitzer's. It calls for reforming worker's compensation, health care and other areas to reduce the cost of business.
It also calls for decentralizing economic development funds to give local areas more control over their own destinies. Spitzer has indicated his intention to appoint an upstate chairman of the Empire State Development Corp., the state's economic development arm. Upstate officials have long complained at the the ESDC has a distinct downstate focus.
It's unclear at this writing who the upstate chairman will be. In a conversation this week, State Sen. Jim Alesi, R-Perinton, said he had discussed the job with Spitzer's administration, in a contact initiated by the new governor's team. But he said that unless something changes, he prefers to remain in the Republican-controlled Senate. Alesi told me he thinks that Spitzer is looking for someone with both legislative and business experience.
It's important to note that both Spitzer and the business community will face a challenge from organized labor, which has a different perspective on the policy prescriptions. For instance, unions and other activists believe the state should look closely at fraud by insurers in the worker's compensation system.
So it will make for an interesting couple of months.