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Klavan On The Culture

Show Business Welfare, New York Style

July 29th, 2014 - 10:05 am

“You earned it! I want it!”

One of the best reporters in New York state — one of the best reporters in the country for my money — is my friend and Manhattan Institute colleague E.J. McMahon. The president of the Empire Center for Public Policy, McMahon covers Albany and all its works with a steel-trap grasp of economic realities combined with a restrained but acerbic understanding of human foibles and corruption. And since “Human Foibles and Corruption” could be the motto on the New York state seal, the word out of the Empire Center is generally authoritative.

This week in Newsday, McMahon has a typically controlled and suggestive piece on the latest rain of taxpayer dollars to be showered by Democrats on that great Democrat institution show business. This time, it’s CBS and Stephen Colbert who’ll bathe in their fellow citizens’ hard-earned cash.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced last week that New York State will steer $16 million in subsidies to CBS to keep the “Late Show” in Manhattan under its next host, Stephen Colbert.

The deal is just the latest in a series of lucrative state tax giveaways to the entertainment industry — part of a national trend, even though Cuomo’s own tax reform commission last year suggested that credits for movies and TV don’t really pay for themselves.

Last year, NBC secured tax breaks estimated to be worth at least $20 million to help finance its move of the “Tonight Show” from Burbank, California, back to Rockefeller Center, where it originated in the 1950s. This was made possible by a 2013-14 state budget provision that extended New York’s already generous film and TV tax credits to “a talk or variety program that filmed at least five seasons outside the state prior to its first relocated season in New York.” That language was so obviously tailored to NBC that it became known in some quarters as “Jimmy’s Law.”

Though CBS didn’t qualify for this particular out-of-the-citizens’-pocket bonanza, Cuomo found a way to pony up 16-mil of other people’s money by bending a law meant to provide performance-based tax credits to businesses other than that of show.

The premise behind the CBS tax breaks is that the “Late Show” and 200 jobs might have moved away without them. In reality, if Colbert hosted his show in Los Angeles — as Jay Leno used to do on NBC, before giving way to Fallon — it would have caused barely a ripple in the city’s economy…

The joke, it seems, is on us.

No doubt. You can read the whole thing here. And if you want to put this particular piece of Democrat waste in context, visit the Empire Center’s website and check out their Albany Spend-O-Meter! Which is hilarious but also, you know, not.

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All Comments   (10)
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"even though Cuomo’s own tax reform commission last year suggested that credits for movies and TV don’t really pay for themselves"

-but they do pay me, and 43% of my check falls to tax, anyway.

And the producers rent studio space, storage space, equipment, and hire caterers, truck drivers, and film crews, all local. They purchase wood, paint, tools, steel, aluminum, all local. Entrepreneurs build studios and production office space (witness Broadway Stages in Greenpoint, just one excellent example).

By a marked margin, there are more non-union permit workers being hired through the unions to crew jobs than there has ever been- hard cash in the pocket and a shot at a union card. Women, men, all races.

The tax breaks are leverage vs. other states for getting the work.

Just sayin'.

-muddycross, itinerant(we all are) blue collar film worker.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment

Not paying taxes is not the same thing as receiving tax dollars.

If you aren't charged taxes, it's like not getting robbed. If you're receiving tax dollars, it's like you're part of a robbery ring.

Perhaps I don't understand your article, but it seems as though NY is simply not charging them taxes. If that's the case, GOOD.

If you're indeed arguing that not paying taxes is the same thing as receiving tax dollars, then we have a serious problem. You'd be one of those guys arguing that a tax cut is the same thing as a subsidy.

Reading the article, they did receive $5 M for renovations, which is wrong/bad. It sounds like they will also not pay $11 M in taxes. Good for them.

That, however, is not the same thing as a subsidy. Perhaps I'm reading it wrong, but it doesn't look like it.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
Birds of a feather flock together. The left, politicians, and show business gravitate together due to have the same gigantic egos.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ho hum. California's been doing this since the '20s.

Poor NY. Enterprise zones that they spend millions of $$$ in TV ads to run in, wait for it...CALIFORNIA, no less, which everyone laughs at.

Enterprise zones.."No taxes for ten years" the ads read.

What a joke.

Meanwhile NY is hemorrhaging businesses, and those morons are advertising in CA to move there? Any CA biz owner worth his salt is going to TX.

Democrats run Wild, coming to a theater near you.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
I've always thought one of the big reason artists tend left is the increased likelihood of monetary subsidies - either direct grant support, corporate welfare, a good job in the government propaganda department or at the very least free health care. A large majority of German artists went over to the Nazis. To quote Goebbels "Our artists shall live like aristocrats".
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
Because Democrats -- especially bi-coastal ones -- are so into celebrity culture, they actually care on a personal level what talk show originates from where or what movie's being shot in town, so the top politicians have a chance to mingle with the celebrities.

New York liberals were truly crushed 40-plus years ago when Johnny Carson gave up his U.N. Plaza penthouse digs and moved to the West Coast -- it was like finding out their girlfriend was cheating on them with the pool boy. And that was part of a decade of movies and TV shows playing off the general decline of New York (which those same liberals never associated with their own policies, but simply thought were part of modern life that everyone would have to deal with sooner or later).

So their own desires for aggrandizement and affirmation by celebrity liberals makes them toss out millions of dollars in an attempt to corner the all-important late-night talk show host market (well, maybe except for Conan. He moved to the West Coast on his own after getting the Leno gig, so in Andy Cuomo's mind, screw Conan -- let him rot in Los Angeles on TBS. Now if we can only get Kimmel to move back east...)
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
Spending taxpayer dollars to fund television programs is grotesque.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes, and if that was happening I'd agree with Andrew, but it's not.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
There's no need to "move" the Tonight Show (or any other show) to New York.

Step 1: Stop Filming in Burbank
Step 2: Start Filming in New York, or anywhere else.

Writers don't need to move. Equipment doesn't need to move. You have auditoriums and soundstages in both places, already. Put the host on a plane, the writers if you want (there's the "internet" now, so that's less of an issue). Everything that exists for show production in California also exists in the City and State of New York.

Paying millions of taxpayer money for it is just political payoff.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
Jimmy's Laws are quite common in the federal tax code, such as giving a tax break to any company employing 5000 people in X county in Y state. When in fact there is only one company that fits that profile.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
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