When freshman Senator Rob Ortt, a Republican of North Tonawanda, sent out a mailer to supporters last week lambasting the the Cuomo administration’s film industry tax credit, he probably thought that he was speaking to a receptive audience.
But the burgeoning local film industry is angry — and they are beginning to organize against Ortt — whose reelection prospects later this year remain uncertain following his involvement in an FBI probe of his protege, George Maziarz.
Ortt’s mailer informs its recipients that Harvey Weinstein received $5 million from the $420 million tax credit program. The program funds up to 35% of the production costs of a movie filmed in the state. He has introduced Senate Bill #6968 to repeal the program, and is calling on the Governor to end the program as he decides how to close this year’s projected $4.4 billion budget deficit.
Gregory Lamberson, a local film professional who has been organizing to save the program, has circulated a statement on social media, and through the Facebook group named, Buffalo Niagara Film Professionals:
Ortt has only one Senate co-sponsor so far, Fred Akshar (Republican, 52nd District). Other Republican Senators oppose his bill – the tax credit enjoys bipartisan support. People downstate don’t even take it seriously: There are simply too many jobs at stake statewide. Unfortunately, until it’s buried, the bill is creating a sense of uncertainty among producers and studios, and that uncertainty has already cost WNY one feature film production.
The bill is now in Rules Committee, has no co-sponsors in the State Assembly. If no state assemblyman co-sponsors the bill, the bill dies. If one state assemblyman co-sponsors the bill, it goes to the floor for a vote. How long that will take, I don’t know. What if it takes a year? How many films and jobs will this man cost us during that time?
Ortt faces uncertain reelection prospects this year. It’s unclear whether this dispute will be an issue for voters come election time.