Film tax credit still boffo in Cleveland and Ohio: editorial

It’s not called the silver screen for nothing.

Since 2009, box office bargain-hunters have contributed more than $300 million to the Northeast Ohio economy, according to Ivan Schwarz, rainmaker at the Greater Cleveland Film Commission.

For the last six years, Tinsel Town tightwads have had their wallets wooed here by the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Incentive – a Schwarz initiative that began as a $10-million-a-year refundable tax credit.

It was such a hit — think Marvel’s ‘The Avengers’ — that Gov. John Kasich struck a bipartisan deal for fiscal years 2012 and 2013 that doubled the credit to $20 million a year. It remains at that level — and, officials say, more than pays its way.

“The feedback we get is that the tax credit is an economic benefit for communities across the state,” says David Goodman, director of the state’s economic development agency.

The credit reimburses production companies 25 percent of what they spend in Ohio and 35 percent of the wages paid to residents.

Ohio also may benefit from having a more modest tax credit than some other states. Louisiana has had no limit on the amount of tax credits awarded annually. But a $1.6 billion budget shortfall caused a fiscal plot twist and last month, the Louisiana House of Representatives voted 102 to 2 to limit film and TV tax credits to $200 million a year, according to a Pew Center report.

Likewise, in Alaska, the legislature approved a bill this spring to leave the state’s film tax credit on the cutting room floor next year because of plummeting oil and gas revenues, Pew reports.

At the same time, however, California tripled the amount available for film tax breaks to $330 million in hopes of bringing Hollywood back to Hollywood, says the report.

Schwarz, who earned $151,122 in compensation from the grants-funded film commission in 2013, according to the latest figures available on GuideStar, cites a 2014 Cleveland State University study that showed every dollar spent by Ohio on the tax credit returned $1.79 to the local economy.

He said that 15,000 Ohioans have worked on films since 2009. “That is the equivalent of 1,100 full time jobs.”

Keep the cameras rolling.

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