By Joseph Spector
Albany Bureau Chief
ALBANY New York should stimulate the economy by lowering taxes on businesses, in struggling counties and on residents who make less than $50,000 a year, Unshackle Upstate, a Rochester-based business group, said in a report Tuesday.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has reportedly hinted at tax breaks next year as he seeks re-election, and Senate Republicans have urged the Democratic governor to consider tax breaks when the Legislature returns to the Capitol in January.
Unshackle Upstate offered an $860 million tax-break package on Tuesday, calling it a "New ERA for Upstate" plan and saying the upstate economy needs lower costs if it's going to rebound.
"Our upstate communities have been victimized by a three-headed monster for decades. Our New ERA for Upstate plan will help combat the burdensome taxes, high unemployment rates and population losses that have plagued upstate for far too long," Brian Sampson, the group's executive director, said in a statement.
The group proposed a five-point plan to cut taxes. It included reducing state incomes taxes 25 percent for upstate residents earning less than $50,000 a year, a cost of $225 million to the state.
The group said the state should reduce a corporate franchise tax over four years and eliminate it by 2018. It would cost $273 million in 2014-15 fiscal year, which starts April 1. Another tax cut would be for an energy assessment on upstate manufacturers.
The proposal also included reducing the state sales tax from 4 percent to 2 percent for upstate counties that have had significant decreases in population and have high unemployment rates.
A yearlong series by Gannett's Albany Bureau has found continued struggles in the state's economy, particularly outside the New York City metropolitan area.
New York's labor force -- those employed or looking for work -- had 43,453 fewer people in June than it did in June 2008, to a total of nearly 9.6 million, state records show.
Meanwhile, the number of unemployed in New York grew 45 percent during that period, from 497,663 in June 2008 to 720,917 in June this year.
Still, because of fewer people in the workforce, the state's unemployment rate has dropped this year.
It was 7.6 percent in July, the lowest it has been since February 2009. The state Labor Department said New York is one of only eight states to have regained all its private-sector jobs lost during the recession in 2008 and 2009.