NYS officials defend film tax credits despite a call to end the program

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- The film industry is booming in Buffalo.

“We’ve had quite an explosion of new jobs and new revenue into town,” said Tim Clark, the Buffalo-Niagara region film commissioner. “It’s really, really growing by leaps and bounds still.”

Clark told News 4 in the last year the industry spurred more than $40 million in direct spending here.

In 2017, 20 new union jobs were added and another 18 are expected this year.

“It allows people to work at a higher rate of pay, and they’re more sustainable jobs and they’re jobs that typically big movie studios demand,” said Clark.

Those jobs, as a result, bring bigger productions here.

Clark told News 4 this growth wouldn’t have happened without the state’s film tax credit program.

State Senator Rob Ortt calls it a “$420 million a year giveaway.” He’s proposed a bill in Albany to get rid of the Empire State film production and post production credits.

“I’m just curious as to why that industry was selected for, I think, the largest industry specific tax credit versus let’s say manufacturing, or agriculture or some other kind of industry,” said Sen. Ortt. “Especially when it’s fair to say most of the jobs are short term employment jobs.”

He questioned Empire State Development CEO Howard Zemsky during budget hearings last week about whether the program is paying off.

“Boy if you look at that and draw that old chart over time and the incentive, it’s a hockey stick in the right direction,” said Zemsky.

He said the credits make New York competitive with other states who have similar programs, like Georgia, Louisiana and Connecticut.

Film Commissioner Tim clerk said the film industry is like construction, people may spend six months on a job before moving to the next. He disagrees with the argument those are short term jobs.

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