California, hoping to keep filmmakers from abandoning Hollywood for states offering tax incentives, is establishing its own production tax credit. The move comes just as a New Mexico legislator is trying to repeal this state’s tax credit.
California legislators this week approved a budget bill providing up to $100 million per year, for five years, in incentives for qualifying productions.
The effort to rein in runaway film and TV projects that gone elsewhere for better financial deals in recent years could heighten competition with states such as New Mexico, where Gov. Bill Richardson has made luring film projects a centerpiece of economic development efforts.
California’s action — part of a larger economic stimulus package — offers a tax credit of 20 percent to films that cost less than $75 million, and a credit of 25 percent to independent productions in the $1 to $10 million range and to any TV series that relocate to California.
Last year ABC’s popular series Ugly Betty moved from Los Angeles to New York City to take advantage of an incentive program there.
“It shows me they are taking places like New Mexico very seriously,” Eric Witt, Richardson’s spokesman on film and media matters, said of the California legislation. “I don’t think it will have a huge material bearing on films that come to New Mexico because the incentives are only one reason films come here.”
Witt emphasized the appeal of trained work crews, New Mexico’s varied geography and the infrastructure provided by Albuquerque Studios and the Garson Studios at the College of Santa Fe.
Still, following on the heels of states such as New Mexico and Louisiana that have turned the film industry into an economic generator, the California legislation — expected to be signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Hollywood veteran — displays a clear desire on the part of state officials to keep the film industry on home turf.
About 115 major film and television projects have shot here since January 2003, according to The New Mexico Film Office. The business has slowed recently due to the national economic crisis and the still-looming possibility of a Screen Actors Guild strike. Only one major film — the post-apocalyptic thriller “The Book of Eli,” starring Denzel Washington — is shooting in the state now.
Still, other states with luring film incentives, including Michigan and New York, are already questioning the worth of such efforts. Earlier this month, Crain’s New York Business reported that New York’s attractive state tax credit fund for films had run out of money.
Here in New Mexico, Rep. Dennis J. Kintigh, R-Roswell, introduced a bill to end the 25 percent tax incentive that New Mexico gives to qualifying productions. His House Bill 725 also would limit the amount of money in the state’s zero-interest loan program for films.
Contact Robert Nott at 986-3021 or firstname.lastname@example.org