FLX Politics: Why are so few staying in New York?

This week the New York State Comptroller’s Office announced that growth is slow in upstate.

Upstate is too often an afterthought. Something those downstate, including elected officials, cannot be bothered to think about – as economics continue to stall out across the state.

Life is good for some in upstate – as those in the Finger Lakes carry the undue burden of a larger, more expensive load. As a whole, though, life could be dramatically improved by the correcting the issues standing in the way of those trying to make life in upstate economically feasible.

New York’s 2012 tax burden of 12.7 percent ranks 1st highest in the nation, and is above the national average of 9.9 percent.

The Tax Foundation also points out that New York’s taxpayers pay $6,993 per capita in state and local taxes.

Combine that with the fact that Rochester, Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Troy, and Albany all ranked among the worst cities in the U.S. for retirees in a recent study.

High taxes, high crime rates, and slow economic growth are the reasons outlined for that analysis, which points to a bigger problem. Niagara Falls, as an example, sees 8 million visitors per year. New York as a whole, promotes itself as a tourist destination.

This is especially the case in the tourism-centric Finger Lakes region, where millions are driven into the area – but alarmingly few are retained.

Much of the data that has been released over the years, indicate that those high taxes have the most to do with New Yorkers leaving en masse. However, a growing contingency of residents in the state are exiting and little is being done to prevent it.

This week we learned that another business would shut it’s doors, further making the case that New York is not business or industry friendly. While there may be tremendous growth in certain parts of New York State, a vibrant economy is needed if the state is going to retain it’s overall stake in the national economy.

Mettler Toledo exiting the region, taking 185 jobs with it

Last year, New York was ranked #49 in the nation for business-friendliness, according to the Tax Foundation. That figure doesn’t surprise anyone living in New York, but what’s even more damaging is the image figures like this paint of the state as a whole. While New York could offer a tremendous amount to businesses, both big and small, in terms of economic viability, stability, and workforce – the perception damage a study like this does to the state is almost more damning than the numbers themselves.

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There was a time when New York dominated education, too. The numbers show that New York State ranks in the middle of the pack when it comes to overall performance, which leaves many, many options outperforming New York. An education of any kind from New York should mean something. It should mean something for the people who live here, but it should also be a drawing factor.

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The best case scenario suggests that New York has flatlined, the worst days are behind us, and that we are – just perhaps – ever so slightly moving the needle upward.

Meanwhile, the worst case scenario seems to be supported by the constant and continued reports that New York is falling further behind by the day – as people, jobs, and industry flee for other regions.

FLX Politics is a weekly feature by Josh Durso, which takes a critical look at policy in the Finger Lakes. He is the Lead News Editor at FingerLakes1.com and can be reached at josh@fingerlakes1.com.

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