La. spent $800M on film tax credits over 5 years - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

La. spent $800M on film tax credits over 5 years

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BATON ROUGE, LA (AP/WAFB) -

A new audit says Louisiana shelled out $800 million over the last five years in tax breaks for the movie industry. The review released Monday by the Legislative Auditor's Office suggests the state gets little back to its coffers for the expense.

For example, the audit says the state spent $197 million tax credits for production projects in 2010 - and received $27 million in tax revenue.

Supporters of the program say the industry has created thousands of new jobs. Critics question if Louisiana gets enough return for its investment.

The Department of Economic Development says a recent analysis estimated that every $1 issued in film tax breaks generates $5.71 in economic output. But the state also loses at least 85 cents in tax revenue for every $1 it spends.

"We don't want to decimate the industry, we're doing really well here now.  But we also have to make sure taxpayers are getting a good return for the investment," said Louisiana Representative Cameron Henry. 

Henry is proposing changes to the Motion Picture Tax Credit program this session.  He says the state started giving the film industry certain incentives, like tax breaks, to attract them to Louisiana.  To build studios here, to live and work here, Henry says.  Now that the state has successfully become home to hundreds of productions, it may be time to cut back on what's offered, he says.

"You get 30% credit for hiring someone from out-of-state.  I think we could probably lower that now, we've built a good base of employees here."

Henry has authored House Bill 695.  Part of what he's proposing is to redefine what an out-of-state worker is. 

"Union folks locally say they get pushed out of jobs by people from out-of-state that qualify...found the loophole," Henry said.

He also wants a cap on high salary actors.  For example, he says, those names that pull in 10-20 million dollars per film don't really need a 30% credit.

Henry is one of two lawmakers who have bills aimed at changing motion picture tax credits.

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