Political chaos thwarts N.Y. tax credit vote

State Senate turmoil threatens to derail legislation

NEW YORK -- With only a week to go to the summer break of the New York State legislature in Albany, a Republican coup in the State Senate has left the entertainment industry here hanging.

Film and TV folks now hope for a last-minute vote on a bill that would continue the popular New York City production tax credits program, which is expected to run out of money soon.

The political chaos had started Monday and wasted a week of legislative work. It also threatens to delay until fall votes on high-profile issues, such as gay marriage and education-related proposals, unless swift progress and a busy final week save the day.

With two State Senate Democrats suddenly offering to work with Republicans to help them seize control of the chamber, the Democratic Senate leadership has fought back by arguing the move is illegal. A justice in the State Supreme Court told politicians in Albany on Friday that they should resolve the resulting chaos over the weekend.

JusticeThomas McNamara also scheduled another court appearance for both parties for 9:30am Monday morning. On Friday, industry folks said they are still waiting to hear whether a vote on a new NYC production incentives bill would happen before the summer break.

"Hopefully by midweek we will have a better handle," said Tom O'Donnell, secretary-treasurer of the Theatrical International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 817.

While some have suggested the legislative session could be extended by a few days, it remains unclear if that is a possibility. The NYC Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting had no comment on the situation.

It had held a meeting of with entertainment industry representatives Monday to discuss the future shape of the city's successful production incentives, which was overshadowed by the coup in Albany. City leaders recently introduced a bill in the State Senate that surprised the industry by calling for a reduction of the city credits from 5% to 4%, with TV shows seeing a decrease to 3% in their fourth year and 2% in the fifth before they lose the right to get a credit. The city proposal would extend the incentives program only through 2011 with a $24 million budget per year and a new $250,000 cap for each film or episode of a TV series.

As an alternative, the industry has suggested extending the NYC production tax credits at the current 5% through 2013. But to give the city time to address budget woes amid the recession, the proposal includes caps for annual payouts by the city, under which it would provide money for small projects more quickly, while delaying payouts to big film and TV productions.

The two sides haven't agreed on a possible compromise, adding a further wrinkle to the incentives issue. With the NYC incentives program running low on money, a bill on an extension or a new program would need to be voted on before the summer break to ensure continuity.