ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo says New York's economy is coming back after a historic recession, the number of jobs is at an all-time high, "and all the arrows are pointing up." Republican Rob Astorino says all indications are New York is "dead last . . . and losing" in job creation and economic outlook among states.
The candidates support their claims with accurate but selective figures and studies. For example, Cuomo prefers to use the raw number of jobs created, while Astorino uses a percentage of the workforce to put, as he says, the number in perspective for a big state. They each use the data in campaign ads to show how their respective recovery plans will make this Rust Belt state shine.
Economists and analysts in other states examined the candidates' plans and found that each had some significant strengths as well as some weaknesses.
The economy and job market have been top issues for gubernatorial candidates for nearly 40 years as manufacturers left for cheaper, nonunion labor and lower taxes, taking swaths of cities such as Buffalo with them.
Cuomo is trying to turn New York's high-tax image on its ear in part by creating tax-free zones he hopes will lure employers nationwide. Astorino's plan centers on getting government mostly out of the way, by cutting red tape that he contends limits companies from growing.
"Places like Binghamton look shuttered; it's like the Dust Bowl or something," said J.P. Donlon, editor-in-chief of Chief Executive magazine, a national publication based in Connecticut and aimed at CEOs. "Once upon a time, these were thriving towns."
The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics says New York gained 115,000 jobs in the past two years alone, part of what Cuomo calls record job growth in his first term. That gain is 1.3 percent of the state's workforce, and it trails some other states, such as Texas, with a 3.3 percent gain, California, with a 2.4 percent gain, and Florida, with a 3.1 percent gain.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors ranked New York's communities among the bottom third of the nation's 363 metro areas for projected economic growth through 2020. The Long Island-New York-Northern New Jersey metro area was tops at 230th, followed by New York's other regions, including Buffalo at 354th and Binghamton last at 363rd.
Cuomo has spent much of his first term trying to shake New York's image as a high-tax state that is unfriendly to business. He plans to continue using targeted, temporary tax breaks to lure companies and retain employers threatening to leave. He also created 10 regional economic development councils to provide local input into economic development, and he authorized four Las Vegas-style casinos upstate.
"I've been governor for four years, people know me, they know my record, they know what we've gotten done," Cuomo said. "They know the state is moving in the right direction, they know that we've made a lot of progress, 400,000 new jobs, taxes down, the government is working. So I think they get that."
Astorino would cut thousands of rules and regulations that he describes as "anti-business" and says can add months to a company's plans to operate or expand in New York. He would allow small businesses -- the state's biggest employment sector -- to avoid several elements of the national health care program known as Obamacare. And he also would eliminate the estate tax, which can hit owners of large farms and small businesses, and authorize drilling for natural gas in an upstate shale deposit through hydraulic fracturing, opposed by environmental groups.
"New York State once led the world in manufacturing, innovation and job creation," Astorino said, contending the state economy is "propped up" by Wall Street. "New York State government has been hostile to private enterprise for many years, and it has gotten no better -- in fact, it has gotten worse -- under Governor Cuomo as the state's decline steepens."
PLANS FOR JOB GROWTH
ALBANY -- Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's job actions and Republican candidate Rob Astorino's proposals to grow jobs include:
Astorino proposes to eliminate many state labor, environmental and other regulations with which businesses must comply to start and operate in New York.
He proposes to reduce property taxes by easing or eliminating unfunded state-mandated programs such as Medicaid and pensions paid by schools and local governments.
He would make permanent the 2 percent cap on local property tax growth that will expire in 2016 unless the governor and State Legislature extend it.
Cuomo says he included several business tax cuts in his 2014-15 budget, including a reduced estate tax, which often hits farms and small businesses.
He also authorized four Las Vegas-style casinos upstate.
He enacted START-UP NY, a program that offers high-tech companies that align with universities 10 years of tax-free living in New York. He hopes to attract and retain innovative new businesses.