Legislation moving forward to cap film tax credits

Legislation moving forward to cap film tax credits

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - It was standing room only as those in Louisiana's film industry came before the House Ways and Means Committee Tuesday creating a sea of red clothing.

The members of the Louisiana Film and Entertainment Association say they are fighting for their livelihood because of a trio of bills advancing this legislative session.

"I might have to go work at Costco," said Patrick Mulhearn, Executive Director of Celtic Studios.

800 people work at Celtic Studios off Airline Hwy.

Film advocates say if Rep. Lance Harris' bill becomes the law, those people and thousands more will be out of the job.

"The movie industry came here and gave me an opportunity to have a new career," said Sam Medina, a professional stuntman.

"No one wants to destroy an industry, but we have a $1.6 billion deficit," said Rep. Harris, R-Alexandria and author of HB 276.

"Rep. Harris, you say that no one wants to destroy this industry. Sir, your bill destroys this industry," said Will French, President of the LA Film & Entertainment Association.

Rep. Harris wants to eliminate the film tax credit in five years, phasing it out from $130 million this year to nothing by 2019.

Opponents argue this bill is already scaring business away, but Rep. Harris says the credit has failed to do its job of making the industry self-supportive.

"It's kind of like a 40-year-old son that won't get out of the house. You're still spending money on him, but he won't leave," said Rep. Harris.

The tax credit program started in 2002. It attracts film makers by giving them back a fraction of the money they spend in Louisiana.

Taxpayers foot the bill. Rep. Harris says last year that was to the tune of well over $200 million.

"We need to get our fiscal state in order, and we need to do it now," said Rep. Harris.

However, the industry says killing or capping the tax won't help the budget crisis immediately. French says the state has already committed hundreds of millions over the next few years to several projects.

"I look around in this film industry. I see people who've never lived in Louisiana before moving in," said French.

"Everybody's being asked to sacrifice to help with this $1.6 billion shortfall, and it's only fair that this industry should share in some that sacrifice," said Jan Moller, Louisiana Budget Project Director.

The bill, and two others regarding the film tax credit, now move to the house floor.

An amendment to Rep. Harris' bill was added before it passed the committee. It would cap the tax credit at $200 million every year and not phase out the credit as Rep. Harris initially sought.

The two other bills passed would cap the tax credit at $226 million a year and $150 million a year.

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