News York State Exposed: Are downstate lawmakers preventing progress in upstate NY?

Posted at: 10/14/2013 6:28 AM
Updated at: 01/22/2015 8:37 AM
By: Pat Taney

The battle between downstate and upstate New York is about to get much more fierce. Some say downstate lawmakers are standing in the way of a major tax break for residents in upstate.

A proposal would give upstate families who make less than $50,000 a year a 25-percent reduction on their income taxes. Supporters say it would help boost our economy here, but there are big fears over whether this will actually pass.

The reason? Lawmakers who represent the New York City area don't seem to be on board. News10NBC went there to find out, asking lawmakers, when upstate will great a break.

It wasn't easy. A lot of the questions were dodged by lawmakers. Those who did talk with News10NBC said this plan to help upstate has no chance of making it and without their support, they're probably right.

When it comes to getting new bills passed that affect you, downstate lawmakers hold the cards. In the Senate they hold a 16 vote majority. In the Assembly they hold a 43 vote majority.

Two men lead the pack, both from downstate. Senate Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Neither returned any of News10NBC's repeated phone calls over a two week period.

“So we decided to go to them, and yeah, it's going to be a long drive, but our goal is to get some of these lawmakers on camera,” said News10NBC's Pat Taney.

Three-hundred and forty-one miles down the Thruway, over the Tappan Zee Bridge outside the city, which by the way is being rebuilt for more than $3-billion of taxpayer dollars, making this upstate tax break plan pocket change in comparison. Its price tag is just over $200-million a year.

News10NBC ended up in lower Manhattan, a far cry from upstate. Here there are a plethora of jobs, even on Wall Street.  It's also represented by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

News10NBC walked in to Silver's building and was told someone would see us, and then we waited, and waited.

More than one hour later, this is what happened.

"I am a reporter. We've been waiting in the lobby and we were told someone was going to meet us," said News10NBC's Pat Taney.

But News10NBC was denied, no Silver available.

"He hasn't been available for two weeks?" asked Taney.

There was no response. It urns out a representative did come down, but listen to what lobby security had to say.

"They went back upstairs, saw the camera and went back upstairs? Okay, alright guys, thank you." said Taney.

Insiders say it's unlikely Silver will be voting for any tax break plan singling out upstate and neither will State Senator Liz Kreuger, who also represents parts of Manhattan.

"How can you stand against this when it's coming from people living this situation everyday?" asked Taney.

"If someone's taxes in upstate get lowered, someone else's taxes are going to have to increase to make up that gap," said Kreuger.

But supporters of the plan argue there's nothing wrong with special tax breaks for special circumstances.

The man behind the plan is Brian Sampson with Unshackle Upstate.

"There's a number of times the state has done specific things for a geographical region. We think that they have to do it here. Theirs is driven by Wall Street. Ours is driven by Main Street and Main Street is struggling," said Sampson.

Meanwhile, across town in Queens, News10NBC found support for the upstate tax break.

"When you are in session in January, how would you vote?" asked Taney.

"As a package, I would have to look at the individual pieces, but there are things in there that I would support," said New York State Senator Mike Gianaris, (D) Queens.

For one, Senator Mike Gianaris says a break upstate will help his district.

Right now, downstate taxpayers are forking over a lot of cash to bail out upstate, billions each year.

"Downstate will do better when upstate does better and vice versa," said Gianaris.

"What do you plan on doing to help upstate in the next session?" asked Taney.

"Tax relief is important. Job creation is top of the list, and that's why the Unshackle Upstate is something we're going to take a close look at," said Sampson.

"Is it the final plan? I don't know. We want the conversation going to say upstate needs a little help right now," said  Gianaris.

From what you just heard, this is a long shot. News10NBC also reached out to Governor Cuomo's office. He's reportedly looking at this tax break plan, but his office has not yet said if Cuomo would sign it.

The plan, which also includes tax breaks for upstate businesses, could be presented in the next session which begins in January.

For more information on Unshackle Upstate's plan, click here.

To contact Senator Dean Skelos, click here.

To contact Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, click here.

To contact Senator Lis Krueger, click here.