Bouncing back from the economic recession that hit in 2008 has been a long, uphill battle, and how best to get back on track has been the subject of much debate ever since.
Despite improving numbers, this year is no different.
Both candidates for New York’s 1st Congressional District—U.S. Representative Tim Bishop, who is seeking his seventh term in office this November, and his Republican challenger, State Senator Lee Zeldin—say they are pro-business and have even been awarded for their efforts.
“I think we’re all pro-business—[Mr. Zeldin] is not any more pro-business than I am,” Mr. Bishop said this week.
But exactly how to go about bolstering the economy is where they differ. While Mr. Bishop believes that investing in education and infrastructure would build a stable workforce and environment, Mr. Zeldin says that the government needs to ease the financial burden on small-business owners, simplify the tax code by making it flatter and cut government spending.
Just last month, Mr. Zeldin was named a recipient of the Guardian of Small Business Award, given by the National Federation of Independent Business, for voting in favor of pro-business legislation as part of the State Senate. In particular, Mr. Zeldin said he is proud of helping to repeal the Metropolitan Transportation Authority payroll tax, which required that employers pay approximately 34 cents for every $100 of payroll. Proposed by the MTA board of directors and approved by the state in 2009, it was a way to close a $1.2 billion deficit in the MTA annual operating budget.
Mr. Zeldin supported the repeal in 2011 and helped eliminate the tax for nearly 80 percent of employers in the state, he said.
According to the Business Council of New York, Mr. Zeldin has a 90-percent rating for his “pro-business” stance, having supported several pieces of legislation, like a jobs creation package that passed in 2012. The bill was crafted to save businesses across the state hundreds of millions of dollars collectively and to create thousands of new private sector jobs by delivering tax relief to small businesses and manufacturers, reducing energy costs, and enacting major fiscal reforms to make the state more economically competitive, according to the legislation’s text.
Mr. Bishop, in 2008, similarly won the Spirit of Enterprise Award from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for voting in support of the chamber’s position on legislation a minimum of 70 percent of the time in the previous session.
Two years ago, Mr. Bishop led the effort to stop budget cuts at the Office of Science, Technology and Academic Research, which would have eliminated thousands of jobs at Brookhaven National Laboratory.
In May, he announced a new law that would create jobs through a Clean Water State Revolving Fund and other efforts to improve water quality by renewing the federal government’s commitment to address the country’s wastewater infrastructure. According to Mr. Bishop, the bill would authorize $12 billion in wastewater infrastructure projects.
“There’s an economic multiplier: For every billion we invest, we create 33,000 jobs,” he said this week. “It’s a real jobs bill.”
Mr. Bishop said he is working with the Federal Aviation Administration to make sure that the replacement of an air traffic control facility in Westbury is built on Long Island, which would save about 1,000 jobs and create well-paying construction jobs.
While both candidates have made strides to provide qualified employees and a business-friendly environment, Mr. Bishop, who has supported tax cuts for the middle class, argues that the government should be looking for ways to invest in areas that would allow the private sector to grow.
“It’s the responsibility of not just the House but every level of government to create an environment in which the private sector can take the lead in job creation,” he said. “I think that means we need to create the right environment by investing in infrastructure and education so we have a properly trained workforce.”
He said Congress has not been active in making such investments, and that, in fact, Republicans voted for huge cuts to both infrastructure and employee training in the House budget.
Mr. Bishop said higher education is the “great equalizer” and that he has been concerned with both access and affordability and has voted for legislation that would help students afford a college education.
Mr. Zeldin said the way to get to a strong economy is by scaling back the government’s interference, providing tax relief and making smarter decisions.
“The best way we can create good-paying jobs on Long Island is for elected officials to, at various levels of government, pursue opportunities that will reduce the cost to do business,” he said this week. “Sometimes, through a particular piece of legislation, you can significantly improve an entire industry—and in the case of bad legislation, you can greatly hurt an entire industry.”
Mr. Zeldin said that in 2012 he voted for a law to give New York’s craft brewers who produce less than six million barrels a year a 14-cent-per-gallon tax credit on the first 200,000 barrels produced, to exempt small breweries from a $150 annual brand label fee, and to create a “farm brewery” license allowing craft brewers that use products grown in the state to operate as the state’s farm wineries do.
Currently, Mr. Zeldin said he is trying to reduce a fee on electric bills that fund utility companies’ operations.
“The biggest issue is the cost to do business,” Mr. Zeldin said. “From energy costs to property taxes, health care and insurance costs, it’s the overhead.” He said more “portable” businesses are opting to leave the state because they can better afford to operate their businesses elsewhere. Sometimes they don’t have a choice, he said.
Obamacare, he said, has hurt business, too. “We have had jobs be converted from full time to part time,” he said. “Long Island-based home health care companies, because of Obamacare, are literally going out of business as we speak.”
He said the required competitive bidding process for Medicare makes it virtually impossible for local home health care companies to compete with larger out-of-state companies that pay lower overhead.
Mr. Zeldin also said that providing Medicaid for those who abuse the system is another drain, and that the tax code needs to be simplified to make it harder for people to exploit deductions and exemptions.
“The complexity is starting to get out of hand,” he said. “In many respects, the government can help create jobs by getting out of the way, instead of taxing businesses to death and adding regulations that add significantly to the cost, and hassle, to do business.”