Deal close on N.Y. tax credit

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NEW YORK -- The specter of former Gov. Eliot Spitzer's prostitution scandal and the affairs of his replacement David Paterson still hover over final negotiations for a New York State film and TV tax incentive bill -- and they're making things go more smoothly.

A compromise on the bill that would raise the state tax credit from 10% to 30% of the below-the-line costs to producers could be reached as early as Friday.

"I think the people of the state of New York have been embarrassed, and they're looking for government that works for them," said Democratic state Sen. Martin Golden, who is spearheading the Senate's version of the bill. "We have to put all the tabloids and innuendoes aside and start to pass budgets and policies that work for the state of New York and give confidence back to the people that we're in control and have a good government."

One source said several legislators on both sides of the aisle want to blame delays on the newly demonized Spitzer so that they can play the good guys in the run-up to the official budget vote Tuesday.

With NBC Universal, Steiner Studios, Silvercup Studios and other parties lobbying them furiously, the Republican-led Senate and the Democratic-led Assembly have favored hefty increases to the current 10% state tax credit on below-the-line production costs. But the devil is in the details.

Spitzer's January proposal was to change it to 15% of all production costs (including above-the-line costs for actors, producers and directors) and an incremental rise in the benefit cap from $60 million to $75 million by 2011.

The Senate initially agreed with Spitzer's 15% but wanted no caps. The Assembly agreed with the Spitzer caps but wanted 30% purely below the line. And although anything can change at the last minute, a final compromise is close to being reached.

Golden and a source involved with the wheeling and dealing say that barring any last minute acts of God, there likely will be the 30% below-the-line credit the Assembly favored. But the cap likely will be raised from the proposed $75 million to at least $100 million by 2011.

The Assembly now is being pressured to extend the credits to 2013, but they want the legislation to have an expiration date so they can return to evaluate the bill and the process. Even though the Senate wants no expiration date, there will likely be a 2012 or 2013 end.

Another outstanding issue is a cap on the credit. Golden maintains that he wants none, but some in the Senate are looking to put a $150 million annual cap in place by 2013. The Assembly is pushing for a figure closer to $100 million, and the final result likely will be between the two figures.

There is plenty of momentum for a compromise among New York's film and TV community, regardless of the political jockeying.

Steiner Studios chairman Doug Steiner put the bipartisan efforts on the bill in perspective.

"I think Sen. Golden may make a Republican out of me yet," he said.
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