News Column

N.C. House OKs budget amendment that keeps film incentives in play

June 13, 2014

By Molly Parker, Star-News, Wilmington, N.C.



June 13--The state House passed a budget amendment Thursday night that is meant to keep talks alive regarding incentives for the film industry.

"It will allow the film incentive issue to proceed to caucus," said Rep. Ted Davis, R-New Hanover, who sponsored the amendment that basically follows a plan put forth by the Senate that turns the tax credits into a grant program.

However, only $5 was appropriated in the amendment, a clear sign that lawmakers intend to hash out the details in a House-Senate conference committee. The amendment passed 90-26.

The current film incentives package that expires at year's end allows productions that spend at least $250,000 in the state to claim 25 percent of their qualifying expenses up to $20 million.

Earlier this week, Davis unsuccessfully attempted to sponsor an amendment in a House Finance Committee that would have reduced the tax credit to 22.5 percent, and lowered the per-project payout cap to $15 million, as well as prompted an independent study on the value of the incentives.

The amendment made in committee failed 20-16, sparking a tit-for-tat between Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis of Charlotte and Wilmington Democrat Susi Hamilton, who has been out front pushing for renewal of the film incentives. Hamilton claimed a Tillis staffer worked the room in opposition of the amendment, which Tillis denied.

Davis said on the House floor Thursday evening that he had "learned a lot about the process" during that committee meeting and "I respect the process." Davis said that while he preferred his earlier proposal, "I also am a realist and I realize there are not a sufficient amount of folks in the House to pass the film credits as they now stand."

Under the Senate's plan, the program would have a $20 million budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year allocated from two state reserve funds. According to legislative staff, that compares to the roughly $60 million in tax credits paid out during the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

Also, film companies would have to spend more to qualify for that 25 percent rebate and payout caps would lower significantly.

For a major motion picture feature, the spending threshold would increase to $10 million and the grant payout would be capped at $5 million. For television production, companies would have to spend at least $1 million per episode to qualify, with a payout cap also of $5 million. For commercials, a qualifying company would have to spend at least $500,000, with a payout cap of $250,000.

Rep. Frank Iler, R-Brunswick, said he didn't care for the grant program but "I will go along with whatever we can get."

"I'll take a half a loaf of whatever," he said.

Metro desk: 343-2384

On Twitter: @StarNewsMolly

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(c)2014 the Star-News (Wilmington, N.C.)

Visit the Star-News (Wilmington, N.C.) at www.starnewsonline.com

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Source: Star-News (Wilmington, NC)


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