NEW YORK — Gov. George E. Pataki’s landslide re-election to a third term in office Tuesday means the retail and apparel industries have someone in Albany who has backed their causes.
In the his first eight years as governor of New York, Pataki has supported a number of measures pertinent to the sectors. The most notable was the March 2000 dropping of the state sales tax on apparel priced less than $110, but Pataki has also approved an anti-sweatshop measure, backed the efforts to build the 7th on Sixth fashion shows and during his tenure the state has provided funds to help the Fashion Institute of Technology begin its first major construction project since 1975.
FIT president Joyce Brown is married to New York State Comptroller H. Carl McCall, who was the Democratic gubernatorial candidate.
Pataki’s stance on cracking down on illegal garment factories — including a law signed last year that allows school boards to use labor standards as a criteria in deciding the award of uniform contracts — helped win him the endorsement of UNITE. That marked the first time in memory that the apparel and textile union or its predecessor, the ILGWU, backed a Republican candidate, said UNITE president Bruce Raynor.
When he took the reins of the union last year, Raynor explained, "I said we would be open to supporting politicians from either party. We would no longer support the Democratic party as a knee-jerk reaction."
He applauded steps the governor has taken to encourage the use of domestic manufacturing and prevent agencies that receive state money from using that funding to fight union-organizing drives. Raynor said his vote for Pataki was the first he’d ever cast for a Republican, though he voted for Democratic candidates Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.
Raynor said the union had a few things it would like to see accomplished in a third Pataki term.
"We are very interested in an executive order or legislation that takes procurement further, that requires ‘Made in the U.S.,’ as Governor McGreevy’s order does in Jersey," he said. In June, New Jersey’s Democratic Governor James E. McGreevy, signed an executive order requiring that all uniforms and other apparel purchased by the state government be manufactured in the U.S.Raynor wasn’t the only member of the fashion industry to cross party lines this fall. Bud Konheim, chief executive officer of Nicole Miller and a longtime supporter of former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a Republican, backed McCall for one simple reason.
"He’s my friend," said Konheim, who met McCall in 1954 when the two men were attending Dartmouth University.
Konheim had supported Pataki in his previous two campaigns, hosting fund-raising parties at his company’s Seventh Avenue showroom. Overall, Konheim said he was disappointed with the gubernatorial campaigns of both Pataki and McCall, as well as independent candidate Tom Golisano.
"I didn’t hear anything that got me juiced and excited," he said. Given the slowdown in the economy, he explained, "We’re looking at budget issues that I don’t think were addressed by Pataki or anybody else. I think we’re looking at fairly heavy-duty taxes coming. These are things that don’t go away and are things that affect us as businesses. High taxation is what ruined upstate New York."
He added that he’d heard McCall’s thoughts on how to reinvigorate the upstate economy and was impressed.
"But it’s not a sound bite," he said, explaining why he thought the topic hadn’t become an issue in the campaign.
After the state spent two years of testing an idea first put forth by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and backed by Giuliani, Pataki signed the bill in 1999 eliminating the 4 percent state sales tax on apparel and footwear costing less than $110. New York City is among the municipalities that have in turn dropped local levies, making for tax-free shopping on such merchandise.
While retailers backed the initiative as making city stores more competitive with those across the Hudson River in New Jersey, overall, it’s not clear that the elimination of the tax has greatly increased consumer spending enough to balance the state’s loss of tax revenue.
The state has also allocated funds to FIT’s recently begun $19 million project to build two new buildings on its campus, adding 300,000 square feet of space to the urban school.
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