In a recent column, I outlined components of a workers' compensation agreement reached by the Senate, Assembly and Governor. This historic agreement will save businesses 10 to 15 percent on their premiums with savings to grow over time. The reforms also include a vigorous crackdown on fraud and a premium "rewards" program for companies that reduce worker injuries. And the plan provides improved benefits to injured workers, including the first increase in individual benefits in 15 years. We succeeded in reaching this agreement because all sides were willing to sit down and negotiate in good faith. While reforming the workers' compensation system will help businesses, I know we need to do much more. That's why I am encouraging all of my colleagues and the governor to again work together in the same spirit of cooperation on a plan to help our small businesses and entrepreneurs. There are almost half a million small businesses (fewer than 100 employees) in New York State, with 70 percent of them employing ten people or less. The majority of new jobs created in New York are created by small businesses. These businesses not only are the backbone of our local economy, but they form the fabric of our communities. Unlike many big corporations, the owners of small businesses have a personal interest in their communities -- a strong bond that goes far beyond the so-called bottom line that drives decisions in corporate boardrooms hundreds if not thousands of miles from here. These are our friends and neighbors. When they succeed, we all benefit. A small business assistance plan recently approved by the State Senate with a bipartisan vote of 55-4 would provide $490 million in assistance in the first year and almost $1.3 billion in tax relief when fully implemented after three years. The Senate plan would eliminate the corporate income and franchise tax for manufacturers; provide direct property tax relief checks to small businesses; provide tax relief for businesses that pay personal income tax; and provide tax credits for the costs of energy, among many other components. The budget proposals advanced by Governor Spitzer and the State Assembly Majority did not include any significant tax relief for small businesses. The small business assistance plan I am pushing will be achievable only if we have willing partners who share our desire and commitment to help the upstate economy grow. We took a big step in the right direction by reforming workers' compensation. The next logical step forward is tax relief for small businesses. Senator Elizabeth Little represents the 45th district of New York State. You can contact her at her district6 office in Glens Falls at 743-0968 or the Plattsburgh at 561-2430.