By Joseph Spector
Albany Bureau Chief
ALBANY, NY-- Assembly Republicans on Tuesday urged the Democratic majority to reduce the $425 million in tax breaks for film productions and restore a $90 million cut to the state Office of People with Developmental Disabilities.
In the 2013-14 budget, lawmakers added back $30 million of a $120 million cut to the agency proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The $90 million cut that remains should be funded through lowering the tax breaks given to Hollywood, Assembly Republicans said.
"On the one hand, you have the most vulnerable in our society. On the other hand, you have literally the most elite in our society," said Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor, R-Fishkill, Dutchess County. "And this budget from earlier this month or late last month, we decided as a state to side with the elites."
During the budget deliberations last month, Assembly Democrats derided the cuts, but most voted to support the budget. Assembly Republicans ripped the cuts and sought to restore them. Lalor said he was hopeful Democrats would reconsider before the legislative session ends in late June.
Assembly Republicans, who hold 43 of the 150 seats in the chamber, said Hollywood shouldn't get tax breaks at the expense of New York's most vulnerable population.
Richard Azzopardi, a Cuomo spokesman, said the cuts were necessary because the state settled with the federal government on more than $1 billion in overbilling for Medicaid costs.
"The governor was able to mitigate more than 90 percent of that cut, resulting in a $90 million reduction to OPWDD's multi-billion dollar service budget," he said in a statement. "We are working with providers to ensure these cuts do not impact care and only come out of administrative overhead and bureaucracy."
Assemblyman Bill Nojay, R-Pittsford, Monroe County, accused Cuomo of pandering to the film industry in exchange for campaign contributions. Cuomo has been criticized for language in the film-tax program to keep talk-show host Jimmy Fallon in New York when he takes over as the host of "The Tonight Show."
Nojay said the state is giving $5 million for next year's Super Bowl in New Jersey and spending $30 million to enforce a new gun-control law, which Republicans have opposed.
"I'm appalled that the governor has cut $90 million from our most vulnerable citizens," Nojay said. "I am more appalled that he does so at the same time he talks about cleaning up the corruption when he is wading in the cesspool of that corruption every day here in Albany."
The state budget, which took effect April 1, continues the $425 million a year tax break for television and film production for five years. On Monday, Cuomo hailed the success of the incentives, saying that 338 projects have filmed or applied to the program since he took office in 2011. He said the films are resulting in $5.2 billion in spending in the state.
On Tuesday, filming of "The Amazing Spiderman 2" began in downtown Rochester. It will be the largest production ever filmed in the state, leading to 3,500 jobs and the casting of 11,000 extras, Cuomo said. It is also being shot on Long Island and in Brooklyn.
"New York is now the place to go for the film and television industry," Cuomo said in a statement Monday. "We have the resources, the talented workforce and the venues to offer the industry unmatched opportunities."