Regional Development

PPR tax relief 011714
Paul Grasso, president and CEO of The Development Corp., explains how the governor's business tax-relief proposal will help North Country businesses thrive. Looking on during the press conference at Lakeside Container in Plattsburgh on Thursday is City of Plattsburgh Mayor Jim Calnon. (Rachel Moore/P-R Photo)

North Country leaders tout tax-relief proposals

By: DAN HEATH

PLATTSBURGH — Local leaders are praising Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed tax-relief measures as game changers for Upstate New York, including the North Country.

Several touted the benefits of the measures during a press conference at Lakeside Container in Plattsburgh on Thursday morning.

‘HOUSE IN ORDER’

North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas said that, in the past, any positive reforms usually were quickly lost as state legislators returned to a “business as usual” pattern of spending increases. They addressed deficit crises through tax increases and a variety of revenue generating gimmicks.

The result was a constant loss of jobs and population, he said.

“Now, things have changed remarkably.”

Douglas said the Cuomo administration has used measures such as the property tax-levy cap and reforms of the pension and Worker’s Compensation systems to get its house in order and can now focus on creation of a business-friendly environment.

CORPORATE TAX

The governor’s plan calls for a reform of the corporate franchise tax structure and decreasing the rate to 6.5 percent, which would be its lowest level since 1968. Officials say that would simplify the audit process and provide businesses with $346 million in annual tax relief.

Another measure calls for elimination of the corporate tax rate for upstate manufacturers. That is expected to save an annual $25 million.

REFUNDABLE CREDIT

A real-property tax credit would create a refundable credit against corporate and personal income taxes equal to 20 percent of a firm’s annual real-property taxes. That would bring the manufacturing sector $136 million in tax relief.

Lakeside Container Owner George Bouyea, whose family owned manufacturer of corrugated products was founded in 1958, moved to the present, state-of-the-art facility on Arizona Avenue in 2002 to help remain competitive.

The real-property tax credit addresses one of the company’s largest expenses, he said.

“It’s exciting to see there are incentives and benefits to existing businesses,” Bouyea said.

‘TREMENDOUS BENEFIT’

Estate-tax reform would increase the exemption from $1 million to $5.25 million, the same as the federal rate. That would exempt almost 90 percent of estates from the tax and thus reduce the number of older middle-class and wealthy New Yorkers who leave the state.

Clinton County Legislature Chairman Sam Dyer said the measure’s passage would be a tremendous benefit to people like him, a third-generation dairy farmer who is likely to pass the business to his son one day.

He said being able to keep what they have saved over the years allows them to use it to address other rising costs, such as energy and supplies.

APPLAUDS CUOMO

Another measure calls for elimination of the 2 percent Temporary Utility Assessment levied on commercial electricity, natural gas, water and steam utility bills. That is expected to save customers statewide $600 million over the next three years.

The Development Corp. President and CEO Paul Grasso said businesses locate where they can be successful, and the state seems to finally be acknowledging that.

“On behalf of the Development Corp., I’m here to applaud Gov. Cuomo’s commitment to improving the business climate in the North Country,” he said.

The proposals give the area’s economic-development entities more ammunition to succeed in a fiercely competitive market, Grasso said.

“Make no mistake, it’s the private sector that creates jobs,” he said.

‘TURNING THE SHIP’

City of Plattsburgh Mayor Jim Calnon said property-tax rates there nearly doubled in the first six years of the new century, but that has slowed in the last few years. The new tax proposals are a great step toward creation of new manufacturing businesses, which usually pay livable wages, he said.

“These proposals are nothing but good news for every municipality,” he said.

Douglas said it is nice to see state leaders continuing the forward momentum rather than reverting to the old methods of economic development.

“This is the core of turning this ship around,” he said.

Email Dan Heath:dheath@pressrepublican.com

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