State support for film projects knocked as budget takes shape

ALBANY — A massive film tax credit proposal that has the support of Gov. Kathy Hochul and the Democratic leaders of the Legislature would cost state taxpayers $66,819 for each job it creates, according to an analysis by a government watchdog group John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany, said New Yorkers would be better served if the state government focused on replacing lead pipes in public water systems or other projects providing a public benefit.

“This whole thing is just completely gross,” Kaehny said of the proposed contribution of more than $7 billion to the film industry over the next 11 years.

The Hochul administration says it hopes to expand the film tax credit program to support a growing industry that has brought 57,300 direct and indirect jobs to New York and produced more than $20 billion in spending within the state.

This year, the total film tax credit amounts to $420 million. Under the Hochul plan, it would grow to $700 million a year, with the budget proposal keeping that level of spending going for the following 10 years.

The Assembly and Senate budget resolutions include the plan pitched by Hochul following an intensive lobbying campaign by the film companies and unions that benefit from the state support for television and movie productions.

At a state budget hearing last month, Tim Clark, commissioner of the Buffalo/Niagara Film Office, said the state-funded incentives for productions have transformed his region into a “movie-making destination,” with the state’s financial incentives driving location decisions.

Negotiations over Hochul’s proposed $227 billion spending plan are heating up. For the state to have an on-time budget, the fiscal legislation would have to be approved by Friday night, but many now suggest it will be at least several days late.

Hochul and lawmakers are getting pressure from all sides, and the governor and the Democrats dominating both chambers have yet to agree on Hochul’s plan to restore discretion to judges in bail matters.

On Tuesday, Hochul faced hardball tactics on her budget proposal when the Pride Center of Western NY and Evergreen Health of Buffalo confirmed her invitation to this year’s Gay Pride Parade in Buffalo was being rescinded in response to a proposal that would redirect revenue from a pharmacy drug price program away from community health centers and into the state treasury.

Hochul has said she has participated in the Buffalo parade “countless times.” This year’s march is scheduled for June 4.

The so-called Medicaid Pharmacy carve-out in this year’s budget plan is being opposed by many community based health care organizations out of fear it will impact their financial stability Another hurdle on the road to a budget deal concerns the pushback Hochul is getting from legislative Democrats on her plan to expand charter schools.

Supporters of creating additional charter schools held a rally at the statehouse Tuesday, featuring Ilyasah Shabazz, a community organizer, motivational speaker and daughter of slain civil rights leader Malcolm X.

She and other supporters of charters say the availability of the charter schools has proven to be beneficial to many Black and Latino families.

A final budget deal is likely to include Hochul’s proposal to increase the state tax on a pack of cigarettes by $1 as well as an increase in the state minimum wage. In the upstate region, the minimum wage is now $14.20 per hour. One Democratic bill would push the minimum wage to $21.25 by 2027.

But Hochul’s push to ban flavored cigarettes was not included in the budget resolutions adopted by the Senate and Assembly.

Another significant area of disagreement involves proposed state income tax hikes on New Yorkers earning at least $5 million annually. Hochul wants to hold the line on income taxes but many Democratic lawmakers say public opinion polls back their argument that high earners should pay more for services needed by New Yorkers.

“Rather than more regressive taxes, like tuition increases, we should be looking at asking those with the most means to shoulder the burden,” said Ron Deutsch, director of New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, an advocacy group.

Heading into final negotiations with Hochul, Deutsch observed, “I think the Legislature has a strong play here.”

GOP lawmakers, meanwhile, contend state leaders should be focused on scaling back on mandates that infringe on individual liberties and threaten to remove local control from municipal governments on zoning and land use.

“Instead of trying to control every aspect of life for New Yorkers, it’s time to scrutinize the behavior of government and ensure public money is not being wasted, open up the legislative process, and bring true transparency and accountability back to our state,” Sen. Peter Oberacker, R-Otsego County, said.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.75/week.

Subscribe Today