Tax breaks to hire local journalists approved in New York, a national first


Originally published in Politico on .
Senator Hoylman-Sigal and the Empire News Coalition

The incentive is intended to help the struggling local news industry.

ALBANY, New York — The decadeslong struggle of local media is getting a lifeline in New York.

The state budget, set to be finalized Saturday, includes the nation’s first payroll tax credit for local news organizations in a bid to encourage new hiring amid the ongoing struggles of journalism outlets to cover their communities.

Lawmakers and independent media companies praised the tax break, which will designate $30 million a year to the program, called the Local Journalism Sustainability Act.


“A thriving local news industry is vital to the health of our democracy,” bill sponsor Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal, a Manhattan Democrat, said in a statement. “It’s our responsibility to help ensure New Yorkers have access to independent and community-focused journalism.”

New York spends more than $8 billion a year on tax incentives and grants to attract and retain businesses in the high-tax state, and advocates of the measure have for years sought to extend the largesse to the newspaper and local TV industry.

The late addition to the $237 billion budget allows eligible outlets to receive a 50 percent refundable credit for the first $50,000 of a journalist’s salary, up to a total of $300,000 per outlet.

The money is largely focused on independently owned publications, but also can cover hiring journalists in print media outlets that “demonstrate a reduction in circulation or in the number of full-time equivalent employees of at least 20 percent over the previous five years.”

The aid will be split between companies with 100 or fewer employees and larger ones.

Local, independently owned news outlets this year started the Empire State Local News Coalition to build support for the idea, and they got the backing of powerful unions to help push it forward amid the closure of thousands of newspapers over the past decade across the nation.