NYS Exposed: NY hands out millions to film and TV productions

July 31, 2017 11:32 PM

Recently released numbers show New York State spent just over $150 million in the first quarter of 2017 on film and television productions. That once again has budget watchdog groups questioning the spending of your tax dollars.

"This is a ton of tax dollars, public dollars that are going to some of the richest people in America, who are Hollywood film moguls," said John Kaehny, executive director at Reinvent Albany.


The state budgets $420 million a year for TV and film production -- by far the most of any state.

"The question is one of payoff," says Kaehny. "Is this a good investment for the public? Do we get the biggest bang for the buck?"

$13.5 million in tax dollars goes to Law and Order SVU, $15.5 million for CBS's The Good Wife and just under $21 million for The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. The governor has always maintained this spending was about one thing...

"Are we providing a subsidy?" said Governor Cuomo. "Yes. But we're providing a subsidy for them to create jobs, and this to me is very simple: It's about creating jobs."

According to the quarterly report, it did, listing 46,000 jobs and over $700 million in private dollars spent in New York State. But critics claims most of that spending and those jobs would be drawn to New York City regardless of the credit and that's where the majority of the credit goes.

"Our contention is this tax credit, which again is about $420 million per year, could be a lot smaller and still attract almost all the same business," says Kaehny.

"There's never a day we're not hands on with someone working on a production," says Nora Brown.

Brown is the executive director of the Rochester-Finger Lakes Film Commission. It's her job to bring film production to our region and says the film credit, which offers a ten percent bonus for upstate productions, has made a significant impact.

"We have seen a lot more productions head this way, which means a lot more production spending, which has a pretty significant impact on the regional economy," says Brown. "It doesn't include the large salary items, writer, producer, director, actor; it's based on money that is spent in New York State... So it's hotels and caterers and restaurants and dry cleaners and printers and all businesses."

She says interest in our area is growing. We've had multiple featured films shot here in the past year and a major music video production is scheduled to start this week.

As for the big tax money heading downstate, Brown sees it as a balancing act.

"In order to get this many millions or that many millions, the Jimmy Fallon shows and the other shows, they had to spend that many more million in order to get that," says Brown. "So it's jobs, Tens of thousands of jobs in New York State. It's billions of dollars of economic impact in New York State before that money goes back to them."

"It's a ton of money that can be put to better use on roads or schools or clean water, other things New Yorkers really need rather than a giant give-away to Hollywood," says Kaehny.

As the rest of the 2017 numbers are released, we'll continue to monitor the spending.


Brett Davidsen

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