Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cuomo vetoes expansion of film tax credit

Gov. Andrew Cuomo decided on Wednesday that 14 upstate counties won't get to take part in the expansion of the Empire State Film Production Tax Credit.

He vetoed a bill that would have expanded the expansion approve earlier this year, which applied to 40 upstate counties. The newly eligible counties would have included Albany, Saratoga and Schenectady counties.

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, and state Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, were the lead sponsors of the proposals.

Santabarbara had hoped the expansion of the credit would ensure the Capital Region is able to compete to bring film companies to the region. Farley had said a film production in the region would be a huge job producer.

Schenectady County Legislature’s Economic Development and Planning Commission Chairman Marty Finn said in a previous statement that an expansion would be a "major step forward!”

The film tax credit normally reimburses 30 percent of a film company's labor costs, but another 10 percent was added for 40 upstate counties in this year's state budget. Only $5 million, of the $420 million committed to the credit, is available at the 40 percent reimbursement rate.

It's not clear what impact, if any, this veto will have on the film studio reportedly interested in coming to Schenectady. Based on the fact Pacifica Ventures, which wants to develop the abandoned site, hired Brown & Weinraub to lobby on this bill, it appears this was something they wanted.

UPDATE: Santabarbara noted the interest from Pacifica Ventures in a statement on Thursday morning expressing his disappointment with Cuomo's veto. "Film companies are currently considering putting down roots in our region, but they will not do so if other upstate communities have an advantage," he said. 

 Farley was also disappointed, arguing that the credit should be applied fairly all over the state. "We’re talking about economically distressed areas that could really benefit from the jobs and economic activity that would be generated by film production," he said in a statement. "I hope this veto is only a temporary setback.  In his veto message, the Governor said expanding the film tax credit should be discussed as part of the 2014-15 budget and I look forward to pursuing it."

Other interested parties in this bill include the AFL-CIO and NBC Universal.

There could still be hope for the Pacifica Ventures project in Schenectady, as they've been tapped as a priority project by the Capital Region Economic Development Council. If the project gets funding, it would mean $15 million in state grants.

 If the expansion was approved, Columbia, Dutchess, Greene, Orange, Putnam, Rensselaer, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, Warren, and Washington counties also would have been eligible.

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