N.Y. budget no lock despite legislature's return

Bill, which is 16 weeks late, includes production credit plan

NEW YORK -- The New York State budget, which includes a five-year film and TV production tax-credit program worth $420 million annually, already is 16 weeks late. Although industry folks here hope it will pass this week, there could be more delays, which could put a further drag on production activity.

Gov. David Paterson has called Empire State lawmakers back to Albany for a 6 p.m. Wednesday special session that will interrupt the legislature’s summer break to approve the budget, which was supposed to be signed off on by April 1, as well as various other bills.

State lawmakers went on summer hiatus before the July 4 weekend, with the senate having failed to approve one key part of the budget bill.

Some senators are believed to plan to argue that the governor can’t force them back to Albany. Even if they show up, legislators could do so without voting on bills, which would put the state closer to a new record for a delayed budget.

In 2004, it took politicians in the state capital until Aug. 11 to finalize a budget.

The governor's $136 billion budget proposal includes a revenue-generation section that calls for the continuation of a 30% tax credit for film and TV productions through 2014, with some fine-tuning of eligibility criteria designed to focus the benefits on state businesses.

The incentives, worth $2.1 billion over five years, would be larger than the one-time $350 million production-incentives allocation made last year that ended up being exhausted early this year. State politicians have cited the program’s job creation and tax-revenue benefits.

The proposed incentives also meets the industry's demand for a longer-term commitment that many say is key to attracting film and especially TV shows.

“The state has lost hundreds of millions of dollars in tax money and thousands of jobs,” Silvercup Studios president Stuart Suna said. “Hopefully, the senate will recognize the importance of the tax credits and the budget for New Yorkers and pass them.”

New York had a disappointing TV pilot season this year, which New York Production Alliance executive director John Johnston attributed to the uncertain future of the tax incentives. The state usually get more than a dozen TV pilots each season (it had 20 in 2008), this season it only had four, according to the state film and TV office.

In addition, several indie films went to Michigan and other states.

One show, ABC’s “Body of Proof,” shot its pilot in Rhode Island but looked at New York and other states for a while until remaining in Rhode Island after that state renewed production incentives well ahead of New York.

Some productions are waiting to come to the Big Apple until the incentives situation is resolved.

“We also have a number of folks who have applied in anticipation to start filming in the fall,” a spokeswoman for the state film and TV commission said.

New York recently got an assist from neighboring New Jersey when the latter ended its production tax-credit program. As a result, the NBC series “Law & Order: SVU” moved to New York.
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