George Amedore: A New Star on the Horizon
In our series highlighting candidates for the NYS Legislature who pledge to be voices for fiscal sanity, we bring you George Amedore. We supported him in his run for the Assembly and, having served us well as an Assemblyman, he's now running for the Senate in the new 46th District, which includes parts of Ulster, Greene, Albany, Schenectady and Montgomery Counties.
Q: George, what is your background and how is it useful for a legislative post?
As a small business owner from Schenectady, I know the joys and frustrations of running a business in upstate New York and see first hand what ails the economy. My father started Amedore Homes, a construction company, about 40 years ago and I started working with him at a very young age. I witnessed the hardship he went through during high inflation and interest rates, which made it incredibly difficult to acquire capital to maintain and grow the business. Much of those hardships were caused by government policies, regulations, and taxes; that really shaped how I view government's involvement in the private sector.
Now I see running a business from his perspective -- the need to meet a payroll, to stay profitable so we can hire more people, to reinvest so we can grow the business, and to make a quality product. I also see the increasingly burdensome regulations, high insurance costs, and crushing taxes. Albany has to speak for all the New York families who own or work for small businesses. People who run a business have to constantly think about how they are going to sustain the organization into the future. Unfortunately, State government hasn't done that. I knew we had to chart a new course if our children ever had the chance for a successful life here. It was truly my personal life, which prompted my decision to run for office.
Q: What grade would you give NYS government for job-creation?
Probably a 'D.' And I'm being kind. Government does not create wealth; private businesses do. Without entities and individuals paying taxes, our government would not be able to turn the lights on in its office buildings. In the Assembly, I worked to improve the environment for small business, the engine of our economy. For far too long, we have taken for granted that every person and business wanted to live and work in New York, so policy was made in a vacuum, completely oblivious to the mass exodus of our industry and citizens.
The State has historically been a terrible partner in business, working against growth, rather than encouraging it. Its attempts at creating jobs only served to stifle job creation. They have unilaterally changed business contracts, created new auditing requirements retroactively, and withheld payments, while at the same time, giving businesses little choice but to offset their soaring costs by using government programs. Government certainly has a role in growing jobs and a strong economy, but it is not one of creating new programs and subsidies. It should be streamlining regulatory bodies and paving the way for businesses to flourish. In the relationship between private business investment and government intervention, business must be the greater of the two. I have advanced this mindset to my colleagues in the Assembly and there is a tangible shift in how small businesses and people who work in them are perceived now.
Q: What pro-business reforms would you call for?
Our State government has made New York inhospitable to business -- we rank 49th out of 50th in terms of business friendliness and outlook, mostly due to our tax and regulatory policies. Instead of improving the State's business environment across-the-board, the government tries to look better with the electorate by paying companies to come here one at a time. Drawing individual companies here with expensive incentives works to create jobs in the short term, but at a high cost per job. When the incentives dry up, the businesses move out or fail, taking the jobs with them. Instead, NYS needs to lower taxes and decrease regulations that make doing business here prohibitively expensive. Period. That is the only way New York is going to be attractive and really help people get jobs.
There are many existing businesses in this State who have managed to make it despite all the hardship. We must focus on these success stories and give them the tools to grow. Pro-growth policies -- such as reducing costs for worker's compensation insurance, putting an end to frivolous tort cases, lowering the tax rate on the properties, businesses, and individuals, while abolishing numerous surcharges, fees, and assessments -- would go a long way to help grow business in New York. The list goes on and on.
In the Assembly, I have stood against anti-business legislation and mandates, such as the Construction Fair Play Act and Wage Theft Prevention Act, which are the latest in "fairness" legislation. These laws -- passed when the Senate was controlled by the Democrats -- mandate numerous reporting requirements on business. They threaten sole proprietorships by heaping burdensome regulations on them. The bills always say there is no financial cost, but every small business owner knows that each new report to file eats at revenue that could be better spent.
Q: How should the State reduce costs across the board?
I am a co-sponsor of a great bill, A7215B, which would allow school districts and BOCES [regional combinations of school districts called Boards of Cooperative Education Services] to consolidate administrative services. Seeing how the first lesson we get in school is to share with one another, it's ironic that there are prohibitions on this type of administrative cooperation to begin with. It is only common sense from a business management standpoint. But New York State has a long history of being very territorial on the local level, and it's codified in our laws.
The Mandate Relief Task Force spearheaded by Lt. Governor Duffy raised common issues from schools and municipalities. The State needs to remove restrictions on local governments' ability to think smarter, spend wisely, and work together. Positive change can happen with a stroke of the pen.
The Triborough Amendment to the Taylor Law is frequently approached, but never touched, as it is the third rail in NYS politics. However, it must be looked at. School superintendents are placed at a disadvantage at their union negotiations when there is no incentive for negotiators to come to the table. There needs to be a more even playing field. Another pressing issue is the pension costs we pay on our State workers, which have skyrocketed. We had an opportunity to stave off long-term fiscal insolvency with Tier VI, but much of the needed reforms -- like ending overtime padding -- wound up being too soft in the legislation that was passed. I have been fighting for a defined contribution, 401k-style option for years, so that employees can make retirement choices best suited for them and their families. The current system requires employees be married to the State for a lifetime to keep their pension. A pension system that is cheaper for the State could also be more attractive to the highly skilled people we seek for public service if it offered greater portability.
Then there's New York's high energy costs. Until last year, we did not have a comprehensive State-wide plan for siting new, more efficient power plants, but relied instead on local permitting schemes. Nearly ten years in the making, Article X legislation was finally adopted and it will provide private investors with more certainty when they invest in both green and traditional energy sources in New York. Rather than, as some would do, spend millions on subsidies for solar, wind, biomass and other green power generators, I believe that Article X will help send private dollars toward improving our aging infrastructure.
In addition to our inefficient power plants, New York's power grid is a patchwork and full of bottlenecks. It is difficult to transmit power from where it is produced to where it is needed. We have started the process for solving this issue, but must also ensure that ratepayers upstate are not shouldering the burden for downstate reductions. Assessments and heavy regulation are still a factor in costs; eliminating the 18-a assessment on utilities would be another stroke of the pen that could save money.
Q: What will your priorities be when you become Senator?
Jobs, jobs, jobs. I started my campaign by going on a jobs tour of local businesses, including Stavo Industries, a growing local manufacturing company and Ski Windham resort. These are the heroes of our economy and we need more of them. After that, there is still an obvious need to reduce the property tax burden across the State. The tax cap was the blunt instrument, but we need mandate relief badly. The State has done the same thing to local governments as it has to businesses and it is crushing taxpayers. The hardworking people of this State need to have more local control of how tax dollars are spent. Every opportunity must be explored to reduce State government intrusion in local affairs.
My priorities will be to whittle away at the decades of poor government decisions and build confidence in our businesses, pride in our people and do what government should have done all along - get off our backs and out of our pockets.
I hope you found this Q&A with Assemblyman Amedore informative. If you would like to support George's campaign, see his website at www.georgeamedore.com.
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