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Too little climate change

It’s not hard to find New York in the 2013 edition of the State Business Tax Climate Index released last week by the Tax Foundation. Go straight to the bottom.
That’s right, despite Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2 percent property tax cap and other efforts to hold the line on taxes, New York ranks 50th in the 2013 index-returning to last place after two years at 49th. New York’s corporate tax ranking is better than average, but in all other components of the index-individual income taxes, sales tax, unemployment insurance tax and property tax-it fares poorly.
In response to the report, Unshackle Upstate executive director Brian Sampson issued a statement saying it "clearly shows that we have a long way to go before we can say that we’re open for business."
Heather Briccetti, president and CEO of the Business Council of New York State Inc., agreed the report indicates "we have significant work to do to reverse years of bad tax and spending decisions." Yet she also said the new index "does not reflect the progress New York has made in its budget and tax policy over the past two years."
Mr. Cuomo’s secretary, Larry Schwartz, was much blunter in his assessment. In a radio interview, he said the conservative Tax Foundation "basically took a lot of data sets and manipulated them to fit their worldview."
It’s true the index is weighted more to the individual income tax than the corporate tax, which tilts it against New York. It’s also true, as Mr. Schwartz noted, that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s recent Enterprising States report-which offers a comprehensive look at how states are "creating an environment in which the private sector can thrive"-ranks New York among the top 25 in six of seven measures and 10th overall.
But Mr. Schwartz also argued that New York businesses pay five times as much in local property taxes as they do in income taxes-his point being that Albany no longer is the big problem.
It’s New York’s total tax burden that matters, however, and many local government officials would say that Albany deserves much blame for pushing mandated costs upon them.

So, yes, the Tax Foundation index is a rather crude measure. But by any yardstick, New York has an uncompetitive tax climate.

10/19/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.


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