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New York Governor Vetoes TV Diversity Tax Credit Bill

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has vetoed a bill that would have linked the state’s film incentives to diversity hiring in the state’s TV industry. The bill, which sailed through the state Legislature, would have allocated up to $5 million for companies that hire female and minority TV writers and directors. The bill was supported by the DGA and the WGA East, whose leaders today expressed their shock and disappointment in the governor’s decision.

“We are stunned and disappointed by the governor’s veto,” said WGA East executive director Lowell Peterson. “New York has missed the chance to make history. Study after study, testimonial upon testimonial, have proven beyond doubt that the television industry has a major diversity problem. Women and people of color are vastly underrepresented, particularly as writers and directors, and they have been for many years. The time has come for concrete action, the kind of action called for in this important legislation – legislation which had broad and deep support across the industry, from individuals and organizations that care deeply about the people who work in the industry and about the industry’s long-term health. Audiences and taxpayers deserve and demand better. We will continue to press for meaningful change.”

Said Neil Dudich, the DGA’s Eastern executive director: “We are deeply disappointed by Governor Cuomo’s decision to veto this landmark bill which would have encouraged television employers to move beyond the status quo to consider the full spectrum of New York’s talented directors and writers. It is thanks to the governor’s leadership that the hugely successful Empire State Film Production Tax Credit has propelled New York production and industry employment to new highs – and this legislation would have built on that momentum to level the playing field for women people of color who have been underrepresented in the top jobs created behind the camera. New York is a leader in production incentives, and we look to the state to ensure those benefits extend to all New Yorkers. We are incredibly grateful to State Senator Marisol Alcantara and Assemblyman Marcos Crespo for taking a stand on this important issue and bringing this legislation to the governor’s desk, to our partners in this endeavor, the Writers Guild of America East, and to New York’s broader labor and film community who provided their support for this important goal. For decades the DGA has published study after study on the lack of inclusion in television, and we will continue to push for fairness in the hiring of directors in the industry.”

A spokesperson for the governor’s office could not be reached for comment.

The bill had received the support of the state AFL-CIO, IATSE Local 52, the International Cinematographers Guild IATSE Local 600, the Motion Pictures Editors Guild IATSE Local 700, SAG-AFTRA, and Theatrical Teamsters Local 817, among many other organizations including Broadway Stages, Eastern Effects, the New York Production Alliance and New York Women in Film and Television.

California is considering similar legislation, and Illinois already has set diversity benchmarks as part of its film incentives program, requiring that all film tax credit applicants must submit a diversity plan that details how they propose to ensure employment of a diverse crew that is representative of the state and document “good faith efforts” to carry out the plan. In addition, applicants can be denied the tax credit there if the production has low racial or gender diversity among its crew.

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