State budget includes $90 million local media tax credit

First-in-the-nation bill incentivizes the retention and hiring of local journalists


Gov. Kathy Hochul and the state legislature unveiled the final state budget today, which included a payroll tax credit for local news outlets, modeled on the Local Journalism Sustainability Act.

With the passage of this bill, New York is now the first state in the nation to incentivize hiring and retaining local journalists.

What's being described as a game-changer for the local news industry comes just months after the launch of the Empire State Local News Coalition, an unprecedented, grassroots campaign powered by more than 200 community newspapers across the state.

“I’m elated that our first-in-the-nation Local Journalism Sustainability Act is passing in the state budget," said state Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal — the senate bill sponsor — in a release. "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. Our efforts will help ensure that our democracy will not die in darkness.”

The program — $30 million per year for three years — allows each eligible newspaper and broadcast business to receive a 50 percent refundable tax credit against the first $50,000 of an employee's salary, up to a total of $300,000 per business.

The budget will allocate the first $4 million to incentivize print and broadcast businesses to hire new journalists. The remaining $26 million will be split evenly between businesses with fewer than 100 employees and those with more than 100 employees, ensuring that hyperlocal, independent news organizations have a fair shot at access to these funds.

After stalling for years, the Local Journalism Sustainability Act catapulted into a top legislative priority this session following the early-2024 founding of the Empire State Local News Coalition and the coalition’s mobilization of support from hundreds of New York hometown papers, as well as a broad range of stakeholders from around the country, including the Rebuild Local News Coalition, Microsoft, and El Diario. Organized labor including NYS AFL-CIO, CWA District 1, and national and local news guilds also played a critical role in mobilizing support for this historic bill.

"The Empire State Local News Coalition is thrilled by the state budget’s inclusion of a payroll tax credit for local news outlets modeled on the Local Journalism Sustainability Act," said Zachary Richner — founder of the Empire State Local News Coalition, and a director at Richner Communications, the parent organization of Herald Community Newspapers.

"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.

"The objectivity of this credit shows that there is a fair way for public policy to support local news without jeopardizing journalistic integrity. This program is a model for other states across the U.S. to follow as communities across the country raise their voices to save local news."

Richner said he was “incredibly proud" of the 200 newspapers that built an unprecedented grassroots movement in support of saving New York’s local news industry in a few short months. He also extended gratitude to Hoylman-Sigal, "whose tireless advocacy for this tax credit was instrumental in moving it through the legislative process."

Richner also provided thanks to Hochul, state senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Assembly sponsor Carrie Woerner, and the rest of the legislature.

Since launching in February, the coalition has quickly mobilized stakeholders across the state to rally behind the bill. In addition to rallying with grassroots advocates in Westchester County and Albany, members led petition drives, letter-writing campaigns, editorials, and advertisements sounding the alarm on the decline of local journalism.  

New York’s leadership on this issue could change the course of local journalism in the United States, organizers say. The budget’s inclusion of this tax credit comes at a watershed moment for the journalism industry: New York state has experienced hundreds of newspaper closures in the past few decades.