ALBANY, N.Y. — Governor Andrew Cuomo is back in New York after a rare, overnight trip to California, fundraising with Hollywood executives whose industry has benefited from New York's $420 million film tax credit program.
"It's a glamorous form of coporate welfare," said Ken Girardin, Empire Center analyst. "Think about what you're doing. You're helping film and TV production companies. You're getting the red carpet treatment, you get to rub elbows with the stars. You're helping a heavily unionized industry. You're helping something that's synonymous with Hollywood and pop culture."
The film tax credit program is once again under scrutiny with Cuomo's fundraising trip, where donations for Cuomo's 2018 campaign went as high as $50,000. The LA Times quoted one attendee as saying New York's film credit is a major issue for the donors who attend the events.
"When a film production company is going to make a movie, they'll kind of shop around and go to different states and sometimes different countries to see how much money they'll be offered," said David Friedfel, Citizens Budget Commission.
While getting a movie or TV show to film in your home state is competitive, critics say New York has already been a longtime on-location setting for major productions.
"There are many states that have these types of credits," Friedfel said. "New York does have the most expensive one. New York also has a long history of having film and TV filmed here. So I think New York has kind of an edge, as does California."
Buoyed by an additional $25 million production tax credit and peak TV, there's been an explosion of movies and shows filming in New York — from superhero dramas to sitcoms. However, skeptics say the credit is more a financial flop.
"The state's own data show that the state is not getting back the same amount of money that it put outs in these credits," Friedfel said. "So, no, it's not paying for itself. It's hard to make an argument for subsidizing this one industry over others."
State officials maintain the tax credit spurs job creation and helps bolster the entertainment industry.