Government Watchdogs Call for Freezing “Corporate Handouts” in final budget

Ron Deutsch was one of numerous speakers who voiced their opposition to subsidizing. Photo by Rikun Zhu

A coalition of 30 groups have sent a letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul and legislative leaders asking them to remove “corporate handouts” in this year’s budget.

During an event in the state Capitol on Thursday, March 2, government watchdogs asked state leaders to reject billions in new and expanded tax abatements, financing and other forms of subsidies to large corporations and wealthy investors in this year’s budget, above the $10 billion currently spent by state and local governments.

The letter asks that “the Senate and Assembly freeze current corporate handouts and reject any new and expanded subsidies in your one-house budgets.”

In her speech on New York State’s budget, Gov. Hochul stated that she would increase state reserves to 15 percent of state operating funds spending by 2025. “We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to not just bring relief to families and put more money in people’s pockets today, but also to make historic investments in New Yorkers for years ahead,” Hochul emphasized the highlights of the budget.

Speakers at the event expressed their mixed views on the budget. Seven delegates from the organizations gave speech at this event: Ron Deutsch of New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, Elizabeth Marcello of Reinvent Albany, Rashida Tyler of New York State Council of Churches, Michael Kink of Strong Economy for All, Jasmine Gripper of Alliance for Quality Education, John Scheib of Scheib Associates and Bob Cohen of Citizen Action of New York.

“New York is confronted by massive wealth and societal inequality and a mountain of evidence that shows that giving wealthy investors and corporations huge wads of taxpayer dollars is simply dumb,” Marcello said. “It’s wasteful, it’s corrupt. And it’s yet another form of trickle down economics.” Marcello, Reinvent Albany, was one of the most critical of the speakers. She directly criticized the Extend and Enhance the Film Tax Credit of the budget.

“Consider that Gov. Hochul’s budget proposes a whopping $7 billion in new and expanded film and TV tax credit. Seven billion dollars with a B that 700 million over 10 years,” Marcello said. “That’s just one of the many corporate handouts at the senate and the assembly should freeze.”

According to the budget book, New York State is going to “increase the annual funding cap of the credits to $700 million starting in tax year 2024; including $45 million of this being allocated to the post production credit.”

“Invest in the people,” said Tyler, deputy director of the New York State Council of Churches. “We would rather see these corporate giveaways frozen and have the money expended on communities where we see workers everyday showing up for work and trying to make ends meet. ”

As for how it is different this year, Deutsch, director of New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, responded: “the public is starting to wake up to what the subsidies are about. And clearly the most recent polling from Siena is clearly showing that the public does not support the expansion of these types of tax credits and the subsidies to businesses.” 

According to a Siena College Poll published on Feb. 27, 41 percent of people support and 48 percent oppose expanding the film tax credit for TV & movie production companies from the current $420 million to $700 million annually. Hochul is still seeing significant support for a number of her state budget proposals, including four getting strong support, two getting strong bipartisan support and two getting opposed.

“The evidence is clear: Good jobs don’t come from corporate handouts — they come from broadly beneficial public investments in physical and human infrastructure like education, workforce development, child and home care, housing, transportation and clean air and water,” the letter states. “It’s time to freeze the deals and implement reforms that move towards investing public funds in public goods.”