New York is losing population, state Sen. James L. Seward said Thursday in Cortland. That’s just not acceptable.
“The only way to reverse this disturbing trend is to create new economic opportunities here at home,” he said in Cortland during an annual tour of his district. “This is a wake-up call for those of us in state government.”
More than 191,000 New Yorkers left last year, he said, but fewer than 141,000 entered the state.
“Why do people leave?” the Milford Republican asked. “The weather may have something to do with it, but let’s face it: They leave primarily because there’s better opportunity elsewhere.”
College education helps Cortland, not just by assuring SUNY Cortland’s future, but helping people get better jobs.
The state budget includes $1 billion for the Tuition Assistance Program. “We can go further,” Seward said. “The Senate has passed legislation I continue to support to increase the income eligibility for TAP and to increase the tuition tax credit so more middle-class families will receive help paying for the cost of college.”
Further, he’d like to increase the size of the TAP awards and has voted for legislation to let students refinance private student loans at lower interest rates through the state.
Seward doesn’t oppose Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s call to provide free tuition to SUNY schools for students whose families earn less than $125,000 a year — like more than 80 percent of Cortland’s families. But he has questions.
“How does he propose to pay for it?” Seward asked. What’s the effect on private colleges? “We haven’t really seen a lot. We’re working off a press release.”
Cuomo’s proposal shines a light on a critical issue, Seward said. “Students leaving college with huge student loan debt postpone the purchase of their first home. Some can’t even afford a car. That’s a drag on the economy.”
Seward has said it for decades: Cut taxes and reduce regulation. “A promotional campaign or a few television ads will not alter a long-standing belief that New York is unfriendly to business,” he said.
But creating jobs goes beyond that. Work force training is important, he said, praising the Seven Valleys New Technology Academy that opened last year in Cortland. “That’s a big step in the right direction.”
But there’s a step back, said Rob Ferri, director of the Cayuga-Cortland Workforce Development Board. The state budget cut $35,000 from training grants for Cortland, denying training to a dozen people. “That takes training money from people who desperately need it,” he said. “That has a domino effect.”
New jobs must appeal to young people who want to stay, said county Legislator James Denkenberger (R-Cuyler, Solon, Truxton). “It’s one thing to say we have jobs available. What jobs do they want?”
And further, Seward added, what kind of life do they want? “They’d like to live in a place that’s vibrant,” he said, in walking distance of work and entertainment.
“The state has to take some of these unfunded mandates back,” said county Legislator Amy Cobb (D-Cortland). “I’ve seen the population leave because of taxes. We need help.”
“A full takeover of Medicaid would be a game-changer,” Seward said. New York is the only state that requires a local contribution to the program that helps low-income people get health care. That burdens the property tax.
He also wants the state to fund increased costs for public defenders and salary raises for district attorneys. “The bottom line is this: Let’s end unfunded mandates once and for all.”