Governor’s cap on film tax credits seems to be DOA in the Legislature

by Jon Chesto
March 25, 2010

It looks like Gov. Deval Patrick’s plan to cap the state’s film industry tax credits ended up dead on arrival at the Legislature.

After extensive debate on Wednesday, only 15 members of the House of Representatives voted for Patrick’s budget measure, which would limit the incentives to $50 million a year – less than half of what the state currently doles out to the industry. Another plan pushed by the film industry critics to cap the incentives at $7 million per production also failed to garner much support.

The issue could resurface when the Senate debates the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, but it’s highly unlikely that it will get any more traction in that chamber. That’s because Senate President Therese Murray has said Patrick’s cap is a bad idea. Murray is a big supporter of the film industry, with a proposed studio complex in her hometown of Plymouth.

It’s understandable the tax credit would get scrutiny at a time when many of the state’s social service programs are enduring cuts. But Patrick’s change would have created far too much uncertainty for the industry and would have likely ended up primarily rewarding productions that would have come here anyway while thwarting the tax incentives’ main purpose – enticing productions that would otherwise go to another state.

The industry’s victory on Beacon Hill this week is a reflection of how things have changed in Massachusetts since the tax credits first took effect in January 2006. It wasn’t that long ago that the industry was splintered and struggling to get lawmakers to pass some form of tax incentives. Today, there’s no question that the state’s rapidly-growing film industry has found its voice.

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