New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie says he is “personally very supportive” of New York’s tax breaks for movie and television productions, which Gov. Kathy Hochul is looking to increase to $700 million a year as part of her state budget proposal.
Heastie (D-Bronx) voiced support for the state’s film tax break on Tuesday, saying New York needs to make sure it continues to support the industry amid competition from other states.
“I do think we want to make sure that New York is a very inviting place for the film industry,” Heastie said at the state Capitol. “There's a lot of competition out there, so I'm personally very supportive.”
Heastie’s support comes as Hochul is proposing a dramatic expansion of the film tax credit program, which currently covers 25% of a film or TV production’s qualified costs if they film or do post-production work in New York, with additional credits available to those that film outside New York City. Her administration claims an expanded version of the tax credit would help keep thousands of entertainment industry jobs in New York as other states, including New Jersey, try to lure them away.
The tax credits are currently capped at a total of $420 million a year. Hochul’s proposal would boost that by $280 million a year beginning in 2024 and extend the program through 2034, while also increasing the minimum credit to 30%. Hochul also wants to make the first $500,000 of each actor, director, writer and composer salary eligible for the credit for the first time, subject to a cap.
Hochul’s plan — which comes as New York sound stages are operating below capacity, according to her administration — would put the state’s tax credit more in line with New Jersey's, which has poached a number of productions from across the Hudson River as it expanded its tax credit in recent years. New Jersey’s program already allows actor and director salaries to be eligible for the credit for studios the state deems “partners” for making certain spending commitments.
But the governor’s proposal has been met with pushback from think tanks, good-government organizations and advocates focused on child poverty issues, who question whether subsidizing the film industry is the best way to spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
Expanding the film tax credit would need approval from state lawmakers, who have regularly renewed the measure since it was first put into place in the early 2000s.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) said the budget negotiation process is still in its early stages and didn’t take a position on Hochul’s proposal. But she noted that her Yonkers office is now across the street from a new, massive film production facility housing Lionsgate Studios.
“The opportunity that a 100,000 square foot entity brings for people in our community is not something that we take for granted,” Stewart-Cousins told reporters on Tuesday. “As always, we want to make sure that whatever we're giving out, we are getting from the companies or the industry what they say they are bringing. And so I think there is always an opportunity to make sure that we're giving out credits that are actually benefiting New Yorkers and benefiting New York.”
Heastie said he has toured a number of film and TV sets and facilities and come away impressed. He most recently visited the set of the CBS drama "The Equalizer," which has bounced between filming in New York and New Jersey during its run.
“I like the diversity that I'm seeing,” said Heastie, who posted an Instagram photo of himself sitting in the executive producer’s chair on set while speaking to series star Queen Latifah. “I was amazed at the diversity of people of color and women who were working on the show.”
A final state budget is due before the beginning of the state’s fiscal year on April 1.