Lawmakers weigh in on keeping tax credits for film and TV producers | Local News

ALBANY — With the average American now spending more than 25% of their TV viewing time on streaming services, video production companies have developed a voracious appetite to create new movies and TV shows.

Champions of New York’s film tax credit program – offering generous incentives to production companies – say the state has become a prime location for such programs and films as a direct result of industry subsidies .

Those supporters are now lobbying state lawmakers to back Governor Kathy Hochul’s proposal for a three-year extension of the $420 million annual movie tax credit, saying New York must be competitive as other states attempt to attract the same industry players.

Since the creation of the State Film Tax Credit in 2004, the shows and films that have benefited from the program have been produced across the state, and it appears that the activity will grow even more in the coming year.

Robert Halmi, managing director of Great Point Studios, said his company was spending tens of millions of dollars to build Niagara Studios in Buffalo and Lionsgate Studio in Yonkers, partly because it participated in the Movie Tax Credit program . “We are creating industry and opportunity where none exist,” Halmi said, suggesting the industry is becoming a beacon of hope for some of New York’s poorest communities.

“Without the tax credits, none of this would happen,” Halmi told lawmakers during a hearing on Hochul’s proposed $216 billion state budget. “None of the movies would come here. We wouldn’t invest in New York at all. We would do it in a state that has tax credits. turn to rubble and no one shows up at your party.”

The Film Tax Credit provides a 25% credit for in-state qualifying post-production and production costs. An additional credit of up to 10% is offered for labor costs in the upstate region.

But the program, which is overseen by Empire State Development, a public authority controlled by the governor, is not without its critics. They argue that this is far too generous and wonder why taxpayers are paying thousands of dollars to subsidize private investors.

Peter Orecki, director of state studies for the Citizens Budget Commission, a government watchdog group, said the state should “do a much better job of promoting accountability” with the credit program. levy for films and other economic development initiatives.

With all of its $10 billion incentive package, the state needs to stay on top of whether the various programs are meeting their job creation goals and having the intended economic impacts — if so, a- he declared.

“The key question is, how many jobs wouldn’t have been created if the movie tax credit didn’t exist,” Orecki said.

Among critics who say there are better ways to use state resources to improve the lives of a wide range of New Yorkers than doling out movie tax credits is John Kaehny , director of Reinvent Albany, an advocacy organization.

“There is no evidence that TV and film credit is a cost-effective way to create sustainable jobs,” Kaehny said.

Reinvent Albany, in an earlier hearing, argued that with its corporate grants, the state needed “massive changes” to ethics laws to prevent tax credits from being a “risk of corruption” stemming from those who benefit from the program rewarding politicians who support them with money for their campaigns.

A report released last October by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, a Democrat, found that New York’s movie tax credit activity in 2019 and 2020 found the program “generated more ‘one billion dollars in tax revenue’.

Debbie Goedeke, who oversees a project called Film Albany for Albany County, noted shows such as “White House Plumbers” (HBO), “Pretty Little Liars” (HBO), “The Gilded Age” (HBO) and “Billions,” (Showtime), all had recent shoots in the Albany area.

For just one series, “Gilded Age,” people affiliated with production work consumed 5,770 nights in temporary accommodations, Goedeke said.

Goedeke made Senator Liz Krueger, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, laugh when she noted that Albany was able to lure a Showtime production called ‘3 Women’ because the city is ‘a perfect double for Fargo. , ND”.

“It’s not just the economic buzz,” Goedeke concluded. “All of these productions have added an esprit de corps to our communities, created a buzz and shined a light through a very dark COVID tunnel.”

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