Utica chamber stakes out position on bail reform, state proposals


UTICA — The Board of Directors of the Greater Utica Chamber of Commerce met on Tuesday, and has staked out its position on several statewide issues with a series of resolutions on bail reform, the state’s move to phase out natural gas hookups, prevailing wage requirements and a proposed carbon tax.

According to the chamber resolution, the state’s bail reform measures enacted in 2019 have served to undermine the criminal justice system, allowing “those accused of burglaries or violent crimes to re-enter the crime scene to gather evidence for their defense, even when the location of the crime is a business or private household.”

Additionally, the chamber resolution said “some urban areas such as New York City have already seen a rapid rise in crime as repeat offenders have been let free since this change in the law took effect January 1, 2020.” The chamber warned the impact extends to businesses across the state...”the business climate in New York State could be adversely affected if the state is perceived as increasingly less safe, and could create new challenges to recruiting new businesses, employees, and their families.”

As a result, the chamber said it “agrees with and supports the efforts of law enforcement agencies, district attorneys, and other state and local legislators in calling on the governor and the state Legislature for the complete repeal of the ‘Bail Elimination Act of 2019’ and, in addition, to cease the practice of concealing such significant changes to state laws within the budget process.”

The chamber also opposed a proposed statewide ban on natural gas hook-ups which would begin in 2027, according to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s State of the State Address. The proposal, the chamber resolution said, “would require new homes and buildings to be heated completely by electricity or by installing heat pumps that cannot provide adequate heating for large buildings in urban areas.”

Additionally, the chamber resolution said the move is “a first step to complete eliminate natural gas as a source of energy” in New York and “amounts to another hidden tax upon New York developers and new housing development, and will reduce disposable income and spending power, thereby curtailing economic activity.”

State officials, in unveiling the proposal, said the move away from natural gas hookups is necessary as part of a multidimensional effort to help combat climate change, which has been blamed by some for significantly making storms and other weather incidents more frequent, more intense and more unpredictable.

In her address last week, Hochul outlined a plan to achieve 2 million climate-friendly, electrified or electrification-ready homes by 2030, which includes the proposed legislation.

“This unprecedented commitment to curb building emissions, which cause more than one third of New York’s climate pollution, will also ensure that more than 800,000 low-to-moderate income households can secure clean energy upgrades,” Hochul said.  

“To make real progress on climate change, it’s time to tackle major sources of pollution head-on, ensure greener housing is available to all New Yorkers, and pave the way toward a more sustainable future,” Hochul said. “This transformative investment in green infrastructure will cement New York’s status at the forefront of climate action and ensure equity in our transition to a cleaner, greener state.”  

The chamber Board of Directors is also opposing a proposed “carbon tax (that) would apply to all users of gasoline, most electricity, propane, natural gas, and heating oil.”

The chamber claimed the tax on gasoline “would immediately add 34 cents per gallon to the price at the pump–on top of already existing state sales and excise taxes — and rise to $1.66 per gallon over 10 years” and “the tax on heating oil would add 39 cents per gallon immediately and rise to $1.90 per gallon over 10 years, adding an estimated $650 dollars per year for the average homeowner.”

Lastly, the chamber also opposed the state’s “prevailing wage” mandate for publicly-funded projects to pay workers a union scale and the union benefit package. “The added cost of the prevailing wage rates will offset the tax incentives and/or grant funding, which will continue to drive private sector development away from New York State and result in lost jobs,” the chamber resolution said.


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