BUFFALO, N.Y. -- New York state is losing thousands of journalists and the stories they would tell.

Empire State Local News Coalition Founder Zachary Richner said in the past two decades the state has lost roughly half of its newsrooms, including recently, three prominent Westchester newspapers.

"That means communities are going without having their high school soccer games covered, their village board meetings covered, holding elected officials to account," Richner said.

The coalition is urging state lawmakers to pass a bill that would create a refundable tax credit of up to $200,000 per market for local news organizations.

"The refundability piece of it is really important because that means if you don't have a tax liability, you still can claim the benefit of this and unfortunately there are a lot of local news outlets in our state that don't have a tax liability because they're not profitable," Richner said.

The credit would be tied to jobs, allowing organizations to claim a 50% credit against the first $50,000 of a journalist's salary. The reporter must live within 50 miles of the community they cover to qualify.

The organization must be publishing for at least a year and hold libel insurance.

"We are very optimistic that this will bring back boots-on-the-ground reporters and editors in what have become increasingly empty newsrooms," Richner said.

The bill has a sponsor in both houses and the state Senate included it in its budget proposal. It appears to have some bipartisan support from lawmakers in both urban and rural districts.

Southern Tier Republican state Sen. George Borrello said it is important to his community.

"These organizations are struggling and I don't want to see a future where we rely on social media for news. We need real news organizations with real journalists, even in rural areas like I represent," he said.

Richner said the importance of local news is more than just his opinion. He said there is empirical evidence of the impact it has on communities.

"The data shows that when a community loses its source of local news they see higher political polarization, lower voter turnout. It even leads to higher taxes," he said.

The legislation would apply to newspapers, including online only publications, television and radio.

Richner said 25% of New York state counties have either one or zero local news sources.