Biz pleads to keep tax credits in N.Y.


"Life on Mars" stars Harvey Keitel, Jason O'Mara and Michael Imperioli joined labor leaders on a Kaufman Astoria Studios stage Monday to push legislators to continue the funding of New York State production tax credits.

The show of unity came after it emerged that Connecticut, which offers one of the richest incentives programs in the U.S., is close to bringing three syndicated NBC Universal talk shows to the Nutmeg State: "Maury," produced in New York, and "The Steve Wilkos Show" and "The Jerry Springer Show," both based in Chicago.

Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell on Friday revealed that NBC Universal is in negotiations with the state on a large TV production studio at the Rich Forum Theater in Stamford, which would bring 150-200 jobs and an infrastructure investment in excess of $3 million.

"As a company based in the tri-state area, NBC Universal is enthusiastic about expanding our footprint in the region," said Barry Wallach, president of NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution. "The tax credit program fosters additional public/private investments in production infrastructure that Connecticut can use to help the state through the economic crisis."

At the New York event hosted by Kaufman Astoria in Queens, New York State AFL-CIO president Denis Hughes, DGA reps, local film and TV workers — from union crew members, gaffers and set designers to production assistants and editors — and local vendors urged Gov. David Paterson to renew the recently dried-up funding for New York's production incentives.

They also cited the need to keep jobs in the state and pointed out that a study had shown a positive economic impact as productions recoup tax credits only well after the state has collected the additional tax revenue those productions bring with them.

On the Kaufman Astoria stage, which is used as the 1973 police precinct on ABC's "Mars," the activists noted that the state and city combined have allocated $690 million in tax credits but have collected $2.7 billion in taxes.

"We are here today to urge the New York State Legislature and Gov. Paterson to make the Empire State Film Production Tax Credit a permanent program and uncap the funding to sustain and create thousands of jobs and continue to build a vibrant entertainment industry in New York," Hughes said. "As the legislature debates the 2009 budget, it is imperative to give this program certainty for thousands of workers. ... We are losing jobs right now. Good-paying union jobs with benefits are leaving New York."

Mike Easter, Teamster driver and transportation captain, acknowledged that "the economic climate is forcing everyone to make hard choices." He added: "But this is not a hard choice. The program creates jobs and provides significant tax revenue to the state treasury."

Kaufman Astoria president Hal Rosenbluth warned that "if productions continue to leave New York, not only will the state lose revenue, but it will return to the days of simply being a 'hero shot' state."

New York's 30% production tax credit is good only for below-the-line expenses, so local crews have the most to lose in case it isn't renewed. (partialdiff)