House says leave film tax credit alone

deMacedo and PRS both pleased

By Emily Wilcox
GateHouse News Service
March 30, 2010

Plymouth — Leave it alone. That was the feeling of the vast majority of legislators in the state’s House of Representatives regarding a proposal to cap Massachusetts’ 25 percent tax credit for filmmakers who make movies here.

The House overwhelmingly rejected attempts to cap the film tax credit. The first proposal to roll back the tax credit to 2006 levels was rejected by a vote of 146 to 10. The second proposal to temporarily cap the tax credit at $50 million was also rejected, by a vote of 140 to 15.

It was good news to many concerned about the state’s economy, and bad news for Gov. Deval Patrick, who supported the cap.

“It was a surprise to many people that it was being brought up in the supplemental budget,” State Rep. Vinny deMacedo, R-Plymouth, said. “I was actually surprised people came out of the woodwork – legislators from all over the state espousing how much business and job creation they’ve seen from the North Shore to western Massachusetts, from Boston to Quincy.”

Senate President Therese Murray said the tax credit does much more than promote the film industry in Massachusetts.

“At a time when our unemployment is over 9 percent and people have been out of work for far too long, it is important that we take a critical look at the total benefit of what tax credits like this do for our economy,” she said. “What needs to be kept in mind is the ripple effect that filming major motion pictures in Massachusetts has on our local economy. These productions put people to work. They fill our hotels, eat in our restaurants and shop in our stores. The benefits to the local economy are positive, and as the industry grows in the commonwealth we will see more and more benefit.”

The Massachusetts Production Coalition contends that since Massachusetts adopted a 25 percent tax credit for filmmakers who film here the state has captured more than $1 billion in new economic activity.

“We are very pleased that an overwhelming number of legislators looked at the facts and saw the benefits that the film tax credit has brought to Massachusetts,” Plymouth Rock Studios Executive Vice President of Government and Public Affairs Kevin O’Reilly said. “I will say that the actions of the legislature sent a very strong message to producers that Massachusetts is a great place to come and film, and this is the kind of consistency we need to continue to attract productions in the Commonwealth.”

DeMacedo noted that the plan to cap the tax credit wouldn’t just kill the movie industry in this state; it would send a message to other industries that receive similar credits, like the biotech and life sciences industries, that their tax incentives could also be pulled.

“My concern was the message it was sending,” deMacedo added. “It said that, depending on where we’re at, we’ll change tax policy year in and year out. Ultimately, the legislature said it’s not a good idea to change tax policy in one of the few areas where we’ve seen job growth and economic activity that was simply not here until the tax credits.”

PRS executives say the state’s tax credit program was what lured them to the state. There are no state tax credits for constructing a movie studio in Massachusetts, but the tax credits bring producers here. Movies take months to a year to film. Plymouth Rock Studios is planning a movie studio project with sound stages and back lots, providing needed infrastructure to permanently establish the industry in the state, so the state won’t just attract movie production but also commercials, sitcoms, series and other media that is generated year round. DeMacedo noted that Massachusetts currently has no sound stages or infrastructure; that’s why projects like PRS’s on Long Pond Road in Plymouth hold such strong economic hope for the future.

“It’s creating an industry here – priming the pump to get the industry in place,” he added. “This sends a message to anyone in the movie industry that, despite the wishes of the governor, the legislature thinks the tax credit has been and will continue to be a worthwhile endeavor.”

O’Reilly wholeheartedly agreed.

“It gives us confidence moving forward that the commonwealth is behind the industry,” he said. “And that confidence will make our lives easier as we talk to potential tenants.”

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