Committee votes to cap, not kill, film tax credits

BATON ROUGE, La. — Instead of making movies, people who work in the film industry spent Tuesday morning in Baton Rouge defending state incentives responsible for the rapid growth of Hollywood South.

The House tax writing committee took up three proposals to trim Louisiana’s generous film tax credit program.

“We’ve got to find that sweet spot in the middle that gives you both the incentive to produce films here and create the jobs here and sustain the industry here and also that creates a level of predictability,” said state Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans.

After a lengthy debate, the committee rejected a bill to kill the tax break, but sent to the full House three different cap levels: $150 million, $200 million and $226 million.

The state has spent as much as $250 million on the tax breaks in a year.

Leger said a cap would create predictability and stability in the program.

“While the industry leadership and the people who work in the industry see that as damaging to the credit, I think we should all see it as a step in the process, as we continue to work through what this bill will ultimately look like,” Leger said.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu supports the state’s film tax credit program. He is urging state lawmakers to do no harm as they discuss the tax break bill.

“First of all, that particular film tax credit has been really beneficial to the New Orleans area,” Landrieu said. “All of those programs can be reeled back a little bit, but to get rid of it is probably not the direction to go in.”

Landrieu agrees that reviewing the film tax credit program, along with the state’s other tax breaks, is a good idea.

“The film tax program was never designed to reimburse people for out of state expenditures,” he said. “It was never designed to be unlimited, neither was the TOPS scholarship program. I think it’s really fiscally wise for them, every couple of years, to make sure they’re doing the right things for the right reasons.”

The film tax credit currently covers about 30 to 35 percent of the cost to film in Louisiana.

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