New York Governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed a landmark bill aimed at bringing more diversity to television in the state. The legislation, which was sponsored by State Senator Marisol Alcantara and Assembly Member Marcos Crespo proposed a $5 million tax incentive to encourage entertainment companies to hire women and people of color.
The bill sailed through the state legislator in June, and garnered the support of the New York State AFL-CIO and various unions including the Writers Guild of America East and the Directors Guild of America East, who in a statement published by Variety, expressed disappointment over Cuomo’s decision.
“We are deeply disappointed by Governor Cuomo’s decision to veto this landmark bill which would have encouraged televisions employers to move beyond the status quo to consider the full spectrum of New York’s talented directors and writers,” DGA Eastern Executive Director Niel Dudish said.
Cuomo ultimately shot the bill down for a bunch of reasons, but noted that while he “fully” supports “programs that seek to improve economic opportunities for underrepresented groups throughout the state,” there’s simply not enough money in the budget.
“The tax incentive program for this industry is oversubscribed and there is no additional funding for it,” Cuomo explained according to Deadline. “Despite the fact that the current film production tax credit program includes a $420 million allocation for a five-year period, the program is extremely oversubscribed. Any expansion to include an additional tax credit in this industry must be considered in the context of the budget.”
He also added that additional determining factors made the bill, “fatally defective.”
“The bill, among other things, fails to identify how the tax credit should be computed or what amount could be claimed; identify when a taxpayer could claim the credit; and provide a clear definition of ‘writer’ and ‘director,’” Cuomo said. “Further, assuming those technical concerns were addressed, the bill lacks statistical evidence necessary to ensure that the program would withstand constitutional scrutiny. In order to constitutionally classify individuals on the basis of race or ethnicity, the state must demonstrate statistically significant evidence of race-based discrimination against screenwriters and directors.”
Nonetheless, Cuomo will be commissioning the Empire State Development Corporation to work with the legislative sponsors and “interested stakeholders” to help develop a study that will determine “whether there is a statistically significant disparity between minority group members and women ready, willing, and able to work as writers in the television industry in New York state and the statistical share of writing work actually performed by such group.”