The legislative session opens at noon Wednesday in
Those in support of extending the incentives as they are currently constituted say they hope lawmakers remember that incentives for the movie and television industry have been something that Republicans and Democrats have historically supported -- and something that has been on the books for years.
"The film incentive started as a bipartisan effort and continues to be one today," said
Some version of film incentives have been in place in
Between 2007 and 2008 -- as the state's first film incentives went into play -- local expenditures by the film industry in
But the industry languished the following three years as other states implemented or juiced their incentives to 25 percent to 30 percent of qualifying expenditures compared to
"It was a loss of jobs; it was a loss of revenue to the state, and we were only able to barely hang on until we could improve our offerings," said state Rep.
"I would only hope they don't try to fix something that's not broken," McComas said Tuesday on the eve of session.
In 2012, the legislature passed and Gov.
So that puts the debate over film incentives squarely in the court of the current legislature. Without action, they will fade away, and supporters say so would the film industry that brings jobs to
The incentives could be extended as is, allowed to expire or be rewritten -- with the latter being a very likely possibility. Hard-line supporters of the industry would like for legislators to do away with the sunset dates altogether that create uncertainty every few years.
If supporters had their way, legislators also would have addressed film incentives during last year's long session -- avoiding a down-to-the-wire decision. But as lawmakers took up a controversial, unprecedented rewrite of the tax code, the debate over film incentives was largely punted to this year.
Still, there were a few significant proposals last session that could foreshadow the pending debate likely to take place in the weeks ahead.
For one, there was an unexpected vote last year during a House committee hearing during debate on the massive tax overhaul package to do away with the incentives. It narrowly died on a tie vote.
Furthermore, two local legislators -- Republican Reps.
Currently, if credits allowed under the state's film incentives package exceed the amount of taxes the production company owes to the state, the state writes a check to the company for the difference. The Catlin/Millis bill would have eliminated that and instead waived any tax liability the company accrued over five years up to the credit limit.
Since most film companies have no tax liability in
This issue is likely to resurface again.
In the early 2000s,
But in recent years, some states have pulled back on these incentives.
"As the number of states offering film incentives has grown, so have the debates surrounding the benefits and economic impacts of these programs," conference of legislatures said in recently published report.
States that have recently ended their programs include
Part of the problem, the report says, is the difficulty of evaluating the economic impact of these incentives, as well as economic development programs more broadly.
Studies stake claims on both sides of the film incentives issue.
For example, a recent industry-commissioned report by an
But a review of that study by the state's Legislative Services Office Fiscal Research Division challenged that claim, saying return on investment for the state revenues is less than
"I think it shows the incentives, like them or not, are directly responsible for the spikes we have had in film production business and its economic impact," he said. "When we have the incentives we do great, and it shows as soon as those incentives start to weaken, it goes away."
But at least one top Republican leader is against the incentives as they are currently structured, highlighting a tough fight ahead.
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