Gov. Cuomo’s veto last week of a bill that would have extended the state’s film tax credit to Schenectady County is more than disappointing, it’s exasperating. That’s because it came with the knowledge on Cuomo’s part that it could cost the city of Schenectady a blockbuster economic development project: a major film studio on the former Alco site.
The governor says he’s concerned about diluting the effects of the tax credit, which since its enactment in 2004 has given a major boost to the film industry in New York City. Cuomo earlier this year pushed through legislation that will, starting in 2015, increase the number of production and post-production activities that would qualify for the 30 percent credit. It also increased the credit itself (an additional 10 percent for labor costs) in struggling upstate areas such as Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse.
The legislation Cuomo vetoed was sponsored by Sen. Hugh Farley and Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, and would have added Schenectady and 13 other upstate counties to those eligible for the additional tax credit. But among the 13 other counties were Rockland and Westchester, which New York City interests feel is too close for comfort. They fear that New York City filmmakers will move there or at least start doing more of their work there.
That’s unlikely, because New York City still has obvious attractions, so much so that last year 90 percent of all the tax credits went to filmmakers there. And it’s even less likely to happen with Schenectady, which is farther away.
But that doesn’t mean the governor shouldn’t be interested in spreading the film industry wealth, as he is trying to do with nanotechnology, replicating the success of Albany in economically struggling communities upstate. And the city of Schenectady surely qualifies as one of those.
If a major West Coast film studio has expressed interest in setting up here — on a brownfield no less — Cuomo should be doing everything in his power to encourage, not discourage, it.
His veto message left the door open, saying that if tax credits are to be extended to more counties, it should be done as part of the overall budget process. Fair enough. As long as it doesn’t advantage some economically struggling communities at the expense of others. As long as it doesn’t cost Schenectady a job-producing, money-spending, exciting new industry that could transform it.