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The cost of doing business in New York

Updated: 05/08/2014 3:43 PM
Created: 05/07/2014 8:03 PM WNYT.com
By: Steve Flamisch

SCHENECTADY -- Established in 1895, the Merriam Insurance Agency is the oldest family-owned-and-operated business in the city.

It has grown and expanded over four generations, but the fifth generation may not keep the business going, at least not in New York, said president Brian Merriam.

"For my children, they know what it costs to live in this state versus other places, and they recognize it is more expensive to live here," Merriam told NewsChannel 13.

"You will have less to show for it at the end of the year than you would in other states," he said. "So for them to choose to stay in New York, as I have, is highly unlikely."

While the agency's profits are rising, Merriam says burdensome regulations and high taxes are major obstacles. It is a complaint shared by many business owners across the Capital Region and the state.

TURNING THE CORNER

Since taking office, the governor has tried to change that narrative, rolling out a multi-million dollar ad campaign declaring that New York is "open for business."

He has touted the property tax cap, the Start-Up New York program, and the elimination of corporate tax for manufacturers. In two years, the rate will drop from 7.1 percent to 6.5 percent for other businesses.

They are steps in the right direction, said Heather Briccetti, the president and CEO of the Business Council of New York State.

"We're optimistic that, with the tax law changes and the long-term property tax relief that we're going to see, that we will turn the corner and become a state that creates more jobs than it loses," she said.

And that is the hope of Brian Merriam. While he expects to work for at least another ten years, he said those tax law changes may not be enough to keep the family business here after he retires.

"I think moving in the right direction is always an important thing," Merriam said. "I think the real question is: 'Is it enough, fast enough, to save what we need to save?'"

HOW WE RANK

Wyoming has the best business tax climate in the country, according to the non-profit Tax Foundation. Massachusetts ranks 25th. Vermont ranks 45th.

New York currently has the worst business tax climate, but it should move up to 48th place once the corporate tax changes are fully phased in.

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