Show Business Welfare, New York Style
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.