Tax Breaks for new NY Companies, but not for Broadway companies.

If you watch cable in the NY area then you’ve probably seen the new commercials for START-UP NY, Governor Cuomo’s “initiative to transform SUNY campuses and other university communities across the state into tax-free communities for new and expanding businesses.”  (Oh, and in case you were wondering, START-UP NY stands for “SUNY Tax-Free Areas to Revitalize and Transform Upstate NY” – which reminds me – how many hours do you think these politicians spend coming up with clever acronyms instead of fixing healthcare?)

The gist of Cuomo’s program is this . . . if you’re a certain type of start-up company (especially high tech) or an expanding business, you can open in/move your business to one of the SUNY zones and operate 100% tax free for 10 years.  No income tax, no business tax, no sales tax, no property tax, no nuthin’.

Sweet deal, huh?

My first thought was . . . could we move Broadway upstate?

Since that’s an obvious no, my second thought was . . . well, I threw a tantrum like a two year old.  “I want a tax break too!!!”

Broadway Producers are serial start-up businessmen and women.  If I produce three shows in a year, that’s three brand new companies paying taxes and putting a heck of a lot of people to work . . . at great risk to me and my investors.

And the NY State and City Government, while kissing the buttocks of film Producers with tax credits here and there, doesn’t offer any incentive for Broadway Producers to keep starting up these new companies year after year . . . despite Broadway’s over 11 BILLION dollar impact on NYC alone, and despite adding over 80,000 jobs.

As Broadway Producing gets riskier and riskier, Producers are going to need more of a reason to do it over and over.  London is starting to look more attractive to people like me (I just dipped my toes in the other side of the Atlantic Ocean by producing the latest revival of Blithe Spirit with Angela Lansbury) . . . and frankly, so are other industries.

But alas!  There could be some movement!

Just one week ago, a group of Broadway brethren marched up to Albany and proposed an Empire State Live Production Tax Credit to “Keep Broadway in New York State.”  The idea is similar to START-UP.  If a Producer decided to send a show upstate, instead of to Chicago or San Diego, the show would get a tax credit.  I know I’d be happy to start a show closer to NYC, especially if there was an economic reason to do so.

Seems simple enough, and since the Governor is happy to extend tax credits to other industries that occupy real estate in Upstate NY, I would hope that this sucker would pass through without much resistance.

But we’ll see.

Politicians haven’t been too helpful in the past.  Their argument being, “Where else you gonna go?  Broadway is only in one place.”

If the government doesn’t do something to help battle the rising risk, and soon . . . we might not only lose shows to other states.  We may lose them altogether.


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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.