Tax break isn’t funny

Stephen Colbert had better be really, really funny as the replacement for David Letterman on “The Late Show,” because the $16 million in tax credits the show is getting from state taxpayers is no laughing matter.

A corporation with reported revenues of $3.86 billion in the first quarter of 2014 allegedly needed $16 million in tax breaks to keep “The Late Show” broadcasting in a building owned by CBS in New York City. Colbert’s show on Comedy Central, by the way, is also filmed in New York City. No one knew if CBS was going to move the show. We’re not sure anyone actually asked before giving the money away.

CBS is getting the money through the Film Tax Credit Program, which is described on the Empire State Development website as providing incentives to qualified production companies that produce feature films, television series, relocated television series, television pilots, films for television, and/or incur post-production costs associated with the original creation of these productions. Program credits of $420 million per year can be allocated and used to encourage companies to produce film projects in New York and help create and maintain film industry jobs.

New York is a state that cries poverty when it comes to education funding. It is a state that says local governments must consolidate services because the state can’t afford an outmoded government structure that costs too much money to deliver services. It is a state that wants to create jobs but creates regulatory barriers at every turn before patting itself on the back for programs like START-UP New York or the Film Tax Credit Program – programs that wouldn’t be necessary in the first place if taxes weren’t so high.

Here’s the punchline to this bad joke. The Film Tax Credit, according to a recent report by the state Tax Reform and Fairness Commission appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, can’t sustain itself and should have its funding cut by $50 million.

Stephen Colbert has spent the past several years skewering politicians on “The Colbert Report.” His move to CBS, unfortunately, is starting out skewering New York’s taxpayers.