The 'Late Show's' next feature: Top 10 tax breaks?

The political jockeying over CBS' "Late Show" intensified in a hurry Thursday when Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged the network to leave the show in New York.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti made the first pitch a mere hours after David Letterman announced that he would be leaving the show next year. Calling Los Angeles "the entertainment capital of the world" -- a boast that still has the ring of truth, if only because all of the major movie studios still have their main offices in and around the city -- Garcetti urged CBS chief Les Moonves to move the show here from New York.

"I have made the entertainment industry a key priority for my administration," Garcetti wrote. "It's a critical component to our city's economy and identity. I created the Mayor's Office of Motion Picture and Television Production, and under the leadership of Ken Ziffren, we are aggressively seeking to encourage more production here in Los Angeles by cutting red tape, lending proactive assistance, and by furthering public policy to compete with the financial incentives offered by other states."

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Good luck competing against tax breaks with "proactive assistance" and "public policy."

On Thursday, shortly after CBS announced that comedian Stephen Colbert would succeed Letterman, Cuomo weighed in.

"With East Coast-based host Stephen Colbert taking the reins of the 'Late Show,' it's clear we should keep the show where it belongs -- here in New York," Cuomo declared, adding that he too would bend Moonves' ear. "Our state is a top destination for entertainment businesses to thrive and grow, creating jobs and economic opportunities for communities across the state, and late-night programs are a major part of that success. We must ensure that the 'Late Show's' long and proud history of making the nation laugh from New York continues for years to come."

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New York to Los Angeles: We see your mayor and raise you a governor.

Moonves told CBS News Thursday that it was "more than likely" the show would stay on the East Coast, noting that Colbert is "a New York guy." But judging from Moonves' comments, the deciding factor will be the financial incentives the network wheedles out of local and state governments. The competition also includes Connecticut and New Jersey; the former, like New York, offers a larger tax break than California does, while the latter's financial incentives are more limited.

In fact, Moonves said he told Garcetti directly that it costs less to make a TV show in New York than in Los Angeles. "That's because of the tax [break] that New York City does and New York state does that we need to do more of in L.A.," he told CBS News.

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The obvious winner here is CBS, which appears sure to offload some of its costs onto the taxpayers. And there's no shortage of people in Los Angeles, starting with the mayor, who would argue that the subsidies are worth the cost because of the jobs the TV and film industry creates. Angelenos recently watched how this process works in reverse when NBC moved "The Tonight Show" to New York and laid off 164 people who had worked on the show in Burbank.

Personally, I hate how some industries have managed to send policymakers racing to the bottom of the tax code. It's not fair to other taxpayers who aren't favored and who can't win special treatment just by threatening to move. But this may be one of those cases when standing on principle is counterproductive, not noble.


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