NY’s Local Papers Get $90M Payroll Tax Credit In State Budget

The tax credit stems from the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, which has been pushed by the Empire State Local News Coalition, a grassroots initiative comprising more than 200 community newspapers across the state. State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal, a Manhattan West Side rep, was a lead sponsor of that bill. It’ll be the first credit of its kind nationwide.

| 29 Apr 2024 | 09:46

A $90 million payroll tax credit for local newspapers was included in New York State’s 2025 budget, marking an unqualified win that will help shore up a struggling industry.

State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal–a lead sponsor of the bill that the tax credit ultimately stems from–earned a standing ovation after he outlined how it’ll work at the annual meeting of the New York Press Association, which was held in Saratoga Springs on April 27. Speaking via remote connection, he told conference attendees that the fine print on the first-in-the-nation credit will be hammered out by Empire State Development Corp.

”I’m happy that New York, which is the capital of the global media industry, is the first state in the nation to pass a media tax credit,” he said.

The program will distribute $30 million a year for three years. Essentially, eligible newspapers–or “broadcast businesses” such as television and radio outlets–will be awarded a 50 percent refundable credit for the first $50,000 of an employee’s salary, up to a total of $300,000 per organization. Four million dollars of the $90 million will go towards “incentivizing” news organizations to recruit and retain journalists.

This will leave $26 million left over, which will be split between news organizations with less than 100 employees and those with more. This is intended to guarantee that “hyperlocal” and independent media gets a good chunk of the pot.

Passage of the bill into law is the culmination of a grassroots organizing effort spearheaded by the Empire State Local News Coalition. They got some help from a broad range of advocates, ranging from labor giants such as the NYS AFL-CIO to corporations such as Microsoft.

The NewsGuild of the Communication Workers of America (CWU), which represents many journalists that stand to benefit from such a tax credit, were also pleased to hear of its success.

“This ground-breaking tax credit recognizes that local news has hit a crisis in our state and the way to begin to reverse it is by protecting and creating new jobs for journalists. There is no local news without journalists,” NewsGuild of New York president Susan DeCarava said.

Founded earlier this year, the Empire State Local News Coalition describes itself on its website as “fighting for the long-term sustainability of local journalism in New York.” It currently has more than 200 members statewide.

“The decline of local journalism is a clear and present threat to our democracy. Hometown newspapers are a foundational part of the American experience; we uplift the stories of everyday New Yorkers making a difference in their communities and serve as watchdogs that hold those in power accountable,” the site adds.

“New York is now the first state in the nation to incentivize hiring and retaining local journalists–a critical investment given that hundreds of New York’s newspapers have closed since 2004, leaving too many New York communities without access to vital local information,” Coalition founder Zachary Richner said in a statement.

”A thriving local news industry is vital to the health of our democracy and it’s our responsibility to help ensure New Yorkers have access to independent and community-focused journalism,” Holyman-Sigal said.

Although the Empire State Local News Coalition is oriented towards its own backyard, the group also makes a point of noting that more 3,000 newspapers have closed nationwide since 2005. Hoylman-Sigal has echoed that dispiriting figure, as well as highlighted that around 43,000 media layoffs have occurred in a comparable amount of time.