RBA guest speaker: “Start Up New York” hurts small business

Michael Durant, president of New York Chapter of NFIB, says small business suffering from Cuomo’s “economic” program

BY KATHY KAHN

Al Samuels presents check for $3,000 to Michael Durant, president of the National Federation of Independent Business, small business’ largest lobbying group in the U.S.
Al Samuels presents check for $3,000 to Michael Durant, president of the National Federation of Independent Business, small business’ largest lobbying group in the U.S.

In a TV commercial currently making the rounds, Robert DeNiro, standing suavely in his black jacket near his Manhattan restaurant in Soho, says “New York is a “new” New York…we are coming back.” Problem is, multimillionaire DeNiro’s TV homage to StartUp NY is about as close to the real lives of everyday New Yorkers as President Obama is to the nation’s healthcare problems.

Michael Durant, New York State chapter president of the National Federation of Independent Business, addressed more than 100 members of the Rockland Business Association on July 17, using DeNiro and singer Alicia Keyes as Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “spokespersons” as an example of why there’s nothing “new” about the way New York is doing business. In fact, to Durant and other like-minded New Yorkers, the Empire State’s ranking as 50th in the nation for its “business-friendly climate” is more telling than any TV commercial.

Durant, who heads the New York Chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business (www.nfib.com), a 70-year old organization with 350,000 members nationwide, represents 10,000 members statewide. “The Small Business Administration defines ‘small business’ as a company with 500 employees or less,” said Durant. “The reality is, in most of New York, our small business community has an average of seven or less employees.”

Durant also said the Cuomo re-election campaign’s StartUp New York commercials are “Probably the biggest threat to the state we have now. They are not representative of the true picture of business in the state. StartUp New York is offering out of state businesses to relocate here and have their taxes deferred for 10 years if they relocate on or near a State University of New York campus…how can a small business owner who pays the lion’s share of taxes in the state compete with that? Macy’s can afford to up its prices and pass them along to the consumer, but the small boutique down the street doesn’t have the same option.”

Durant said the economic regional councils Cuomo has had formed during his first term “have been a good first step, but it’s been the only step he’s really taken since becoming governor…the current administration is out of touch with small business in general…in fact, it’s disingenuous to have economic development that benefits a niche industry exclusively—the state should attempt to create an atmosphere where all will benefit.”

When the property tax cap disappears in 2016, added Durant, “The ‘house of cards’ the state has built is going to have a major setback. New York has not addressed the major issues affecting its business climate…nothing has been done to repeal the Scaffold Law, which has remained on the books even though every other state has done away with it.”

As a result of the Scaffold Law, which makes New York the only state in the USA to put absolute liability on employers when a worker falls and injures himself, Durant said only 1.5 percent of insurers are willing to do business in New York. “It remains ‘untouchable,’ just as Wicks Law reform has remained dormant.”

Durant noted the cost to construct the new Tappan Zee bridge has had to add an additional cost of between $300-600 million as a result of the liability insurance the state must carry as a result of the Scaffold Law. How can Gov. Cuomo continue to claim it’s a ‘new” New York when the reality is, nothing has really changed, save for these regional economic councils?”

Cuomo is also proposing the creation of new regional councils, based on the economic development councils, to study how best to serve the state’s imploding healthcare needs, according to a recent Pattern for Progress report released the same day Durant spoke to the RBA members at Casa Mia Restaurant in Blauvelt. How and when those regional councils will be formed, or who will lead them, has yet to be determined.

Al Samuels, Rockland Business Association president, handed Durant a check for $3,000, representing the RBA’s new membership in NFIB. “We don’t agree on everything,” Samuels told attendees, “but I do believe the NFIB is out there advocating for the small business owners, which represents the bulk of our membership.”