As we begin work on this years state budget, there is no doubt we are feeling the sting of an over reliance on Wall Street performing well. Revenue growth has slumped and we face a $4 billion deficit. Clearly, our state would benefit from economic diversity and one of the best ways to accomplish this is by helping existing businesses -- both large and small expand. We need to create an environment that encourages investment upstate. To that end, the State Senate last month approved a 10-point plan that would invest more than $3.7 billion into economic development initiatives over the next three years. Our plan comes from the ideas of the businesses we represent. It would provide targeted assistance as well as some broad tax relief, addressing the real needs of businesses to help them grow and prosper. A cornerstone of the plan is a series of tax reductions. These include eliminating business taxes on manufacturing in New York State, reducing the Corporate Franchise Tax Rate from 7.1 percent to 6.85 percent and providing property tax rebates, similar to the STAR program, for small businesses that employ fewer than 20 employees. The Senate proposal includes funding for key economic development and emerging technology projects. It would also invest in infrastructure to provide broadband access across the State. Better broadband will help everyone, but it would prove particularly helpful for our tourism industry if we could keep people here for a long weekend by providing them the ability to telecommute. Reducing our energy dependence is a critical component of this plan. Initiatives that my colleagues and I have advanced would promote energy independence and clean alternative energy as part of a long-term strategy. To provide immediate assistance, we have called for eliminating the Petroleum Business Tax on nonresidential heating fuel and creating a refundable energy tax credit to help 386,000 small businesses. One of the greatest challenges businesses face is providing affordable health care insurance for their employees. The Senate plan would enable businesses to purchase Healthy-NY at the unsubsidized cost, provide a tax credit for small business health insurance costs and exempt Health Savings Accounts from State health insurance mandates. The governor has spoken a lot about the importance of helping the upstate economy. I support the smart capital investments he has talked about, but I also recognize the need for tax relief that helps all businesses. We need to find common ground this budget cycle and, in doing so, I am confident we can produce strong results that make New York more business-friendly and economically competitive.