Despite opposition elsewhere, New Yorkers support tax credits

Even as many states ramp up the debate on the real value of tax incentives to boost film and television production, the consensus in New York seems to be that such incentives do their job. And that position now appears to have received support from the latest data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

New York state’s incentives are said to be responsible for helping to lure such projects as films “The Bourne Legacy,” “Men in Black III” and “New Year’s Eve” and TV series “Blue Bloods,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Damages,” “Person of Interest,” “Glee,” “Gossip Girl” and “Pan Am.”

Analysis of the data indicates that the motion picture and television production industry is responsible for more than 141,000 jobs in the state of New York, including direct production-related jobs as well as indirect jobs in businesses working with the production industry.

The core production jobs covered in the 2010 jobs report of the New York State Comptroller are up to 43,000, an increase of 20% from the 36,000 jobs in 2008, and an increase of 22% over 2009. (The production slowdown in 2009 is attributed to uncertainty at that time about the incentives program.)

With non-core production-related jobs added in, the number of direct jobs reaches 48,690, up 13% (nearly 5,600) over 2009. (Annual overall job growth between 2009 and 2010 in New York State was flat; nationwide it was down 1%.

New York’s production incentive consists of a 30% refundable tax credit applied against qualified expenditures.

In addition to the BLS report, the incentives’ success is also measured by the growth in New York projects. In 2010, the New York film incentive program received 91 applications for the incentives, including 71 motion pictures, six television pilots and 14 television series.

In 2011, the program had a 66% boost, with 137 applications to date, including 91 motion pictures, 20 television pilots and 26 television series, according to New York State Governor’s Office for Motion Picture and Television Development.

In one example of the local impact of filming, the feature “Arthur,” which shot in New York for 48 days in 2010, spent more than $26 million with local vendors, and made more than 4,300 local hires, including 1,043 crew members.

“The new job figures released by BLS confirm what all of us working in and around this industry know to be true, that film and television production continues to be a catalyst for New York’s economic recovery,” said Mike Jackman, co-chair of the New York Production Alliance, an organization of guilds, unions, vendors and individuals representing the film industry.

“It is of no surprise the only dip in job growth came during 2009, a year funding for the New York State incentive briefly ran dry,” he added. “The New York State Film Credit, created by the legislature and preserved under Governor Andrew Cuomo, continues to create job opportunities for New Yorkers across the economic spectrum.”

John Ford, president of IA local 52, said, “On behalf of the men and women at Local 52, we are so pleased by the impact of these programs in terms of real job growth. The robustness of production in New York means that there is more opportunity and competition for professional studio mechanics, artists and craftspeople.”

“Film tax credits create jobs, stimulate local economies, and keep film productions in-state,” added Richard Masur, chair of the Screen Actors Guild national legislative committee and former Guild president. “SAG members have seen an increase in work due to these credits, including a 30 percent increase in background actor workdays. These extra days of employment keep actors working and help them to qualify for health insurance and pension benefits.”

“States know that film and television production bring increased investment and good jobs, which is why New York put incentives in place and why you see the positive year-after-year growth in this sector,” said Vans Stevenson, senior VP of state government affairs at the Motion Picture Association of America. “Competition among states and Canada is fierce for these jobs because they are the kinds of work people want – with benefits and an average salary of $79,000 a year – and that’s why a state like New York focuses on growing this sector.”

Stevenson also challenged recent claims that the production tax credit was somehow directly impacting funding for public schools, particularly in New York City. “The assertion that public school students don’t have the educational resources because there is a budget allocation for the production incentive program is intellectually dishonest and factually incorrect,” he said.

“For example, in 2009 the motion picture and television production companies spent $5.10 for every dollar invested by the state in the program, according to the report on the Empire State Film Production Credit issued August 2010 by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance and the New York State Governor’s Office of Motion Picture and Television Development. That is a very positive return on investment.”

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