June 25, 2007

Sematech, Power For Jobs Get Funding As Legislative Session Ends

By: by The Business Review


Manufacturers and large power users can continue to trim their energy bills for at least one more year after the state extended the Power For Jobs program as the legislative session ground to a close this week.

That program, which was slated to expire at the end of this month, is credited with creating more than 283,000 jobs over the past decade by saving companies money on their energy bills.

State leaders also hammered out a $300 million financing plan to help underwrite the construction of a research facility to establish International Sematech at the state University at Albany's nanocollege. The money, which will be handed out over five years, will help the Austin, Texas, consortium of microchip manufacturers create 450 local jobs.

A joint statement by Michael Polcari, president and CEO of Sematech, and Alain Kaloyeros, vice president and chief administrative officer of UAlbany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, praised Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and the Senate "for their leadership in advancing the International Sematech initiative.

"The International Sematech and UAlbany NanoCollege partnership will be firmly established as the world's primary force for next-generation nanoelectronics research, development and outreach, further cementing New York State's position as a global leader in high-tech development and commercialization," the statement said.

Contractors were not successful in gaining long-awaited changes in the state Wick's law, which places contracting requirements on public works projects that cost more than $50,000. Gov. Eliot Spitzer and legislative leaders had agreed last week to amend the 40-plus year old law by increasing the thresholds in which public works projects would require separate contracts for electrical, plumbing, heating and cooling work.

The current $50,000 threshold would have been increased to $500,000 for upstate projects, to $3 million for New York City projects and to $1.5 million for downstate.

"This is a session that had enormous potential but is ending with, in my perspective, significant disappointment," Spitzer said Thursday.

He accused state Sen. Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno, R-Brunswick, of holding the Wick's amendment and other bills hostage to garner support for "pork-laden capital." The Wick's amendments were long overdue and would have reduced construction costs, saving taxpayers money, Spitzer said.

Spitzer also questioned Bruno's refusal to confirm the gubernatorial nomination of 42-year-old Energy East Management Corp. president Angela Sparks-Beddoe as the new chairwoman of the state Public Service Commission, a job that pays $129,000 a year.

Economic development policy depends upon that position, Spitzer said.

Bruno criticized the governor with failing to reach agreements on issues to garner support for campaign finance reform.

"It's unfortunate that the governor continues to bully and threaten in an attempt to get his way. That will not work. As I have said time and time again, instead of focusing on what New Yorkers truly care about -- lower property taxes, more jobs and safer communities -- he continues his singular pursuit of an issue that no one cares about," Bruno said Friday.

Bruno has said that the Senate may return in mid July.

Spitzer also said he is not ready to give up.