Lawmakers increase film tax credits

By Michael D. Pitman

Ohio lawmakers have supported a measure that doubles the number of tax credits that would allow more movies to be made in the state, continuing momemtum for an industry that has had a $54 million-plus economic impact on the Cincinnati region alone.

The Ohio House Finance Committee approved House Bill 475 this past Tuesday, but the content of that bill along with several others were fast tracked to Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s desk when they were added on to House Bill 390. Lawmakers passed that bill this past Wednesday, and it’s expected Kasich will sign the bill.

The elements of House Bill 475 will, among other things, increase the available annual tax credits from $20 million to $40 million and provide; create of a job training program; eliminate credit caps; and require a minimum of 5 percent of a company’s eligible production expenses be paid to minority businesses.

“Anything’s going to help,” said Steve Colwell, of Film Hamiltonand TV Hamilton, who said the state reached its annual $20 million cap before the end of 2015. “I don’t think we really understand the amount of money we generate by a film. It’s like having a small business come in.”

Since the inception of the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Incentive program in 2009, the statewide economic impact because of the film industry has been $400 million, said Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Film Commission Executive Director Kristen Schlotman. She said the elements of the bill and program “will lead to job creation in Ohio’s film industry.”

“Perhaps just as important in this bill is the creation of the job training program for resident film crew members,” said Scholtman. “Having a more robust local labor force will not only attract out-of-state investment to use in-state talen, but it will also encourage Ohio companies to produce their commercials and videos at home.”

Colwell said the three most recent movies filmed in Hamilton — “Chain of Command,” “Long Home” and “Tiger” — generated an estimated $2 million economic impact for the state, which included more than 500 hotel rooms rented in Butler County and employed 100 people from the county.

“The more we can keep that money in the community, the better,” he said.

But not all support the program, much less the changes to it.

Wendy Patton, with Policy Matters Ohio, said the state should debate the merits of the program along side the need for school funding, water quality, protecting children and seniors, and restoring funding to local schools.

“Fostering new financial services for unknown investors to avoid state tax liability so as to help some proviate moving production firms raise equity is a purpose that pales in comparison to the need for basic public services in Ohio Communities,” she said.

She also said making the credits transferrable allows companies to “sell the tax credits, typically on a secondary market, raising equality for a project.”

“The sale of the tax credit allows the buyers … to escape scruitny or accountabliity,” Patton said.

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