Weymouth town council approves script for movie tax credit

By Ed Baker
GateHouse News Service
April 9, 2010

Weymouth — The town council has voted 9-0 to urge local state representatives to keep a $125 million tax credit incentive for producers to make motion pictures in Massachusetts.

Councilors approved a resolution by Vice President Patrick O’Connor that stated that the tax incentive is needed to encourage the construction of a $147 million movie production complex at the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station.

“We need economic growth in the state,” said O’Connor during an April 5 council session. “The project at SouthField will create up to 3,000 jobs.”

He said that the construction of SouthField Studios would require up to 3,000 workers and up to 750 employees to assist in movie production when the complex is completed.

“Many of them will be Weymouth residents,” O’Connor said. “We need to send a letter to (state) representatives James Murphy and Ronald Mariano, and state Sen. Robert Hedlund.”

Gov. Deval Patrick is proposing to cap a $125 million incentive for movie producers to film in Massachusetts at $55 million to help close a $2.7 billion deficit in the state budget for fiscal year 2011, which begins July 1.

Critics of the tax credit had suggested limiting the benefit to $7 million, which was the same level it was capped at in 2006 before lawmakers voted to expand the incentive

House lawmakers turned down Patrick’s proposal on March 24 after a spirited debate.

The House’s action does not prohibit the tax cap proposal from being put back into the budget before the fiscal year ends.

“I concur with Councilor O’Connor about the tax resolution,” Councilor at Large Robert Conlon said.

He quoted a Hollywood producer who once stated that a film shot on location in Massachusetts requires about 141 local workers.

“Canada gives tax breaks to movie companies,” Conlon said. “Twenty percent of all the movies made (in this hemisphere) are produced in Canada. It is a win-win situation to give tax incentives, and I hope that Gov. Patrick will listen to our representatives.”

Proponents of the film tax credit claim that the incentive has generated economic activity in Massachusetts, attracted tourism, filled hotels with guests, and provided free marketing of the state to movie viewers.

Critics of the tax incentive say that the benefit does not raise enough revenue to pay for itself and subsidizes rich actors’ salaries.

O’Connor said in his resolution that a cap on the movie tax credit would force production companies to stop making films in Massachusetts.

“The Massachusetts Production Coalition reports that since Massachusetts adopted a 25 percent tax credit for filmmakers who film here, Massachusetts has generated more than $1 billion in new economic activity,” stated the resolution. “A U-Mass Boston study released in February, 2010 confirms that Massachusetts has one of the fastest growing film industries in the nation.”

O’Connor’s resolution received the blessings of the council’s economic development committee.

The committee also urged councilors to write a letter to the state Department of Transportation that urges making the construction of a parkway at the base a priority to spur development there.

“We took the opportunity at the meeting to discuss the progress on the SouthField project,” said District 1 Councilor Victor Pap, chairman of the economic development committee.

The eventual two-lane parkway will link the base from Hingham Street to Route 18.

Patrick committed $42.6 million in state aid to construct the road in a 30-year bond bill that lawmakers approved in 2008.

The funding includes $8 million in previous federal aid and $15 million in stimulus funding.

The first phase of the parkway will have a connection to the Shea Memorial Boulevard, which is the main entrance to the base from Route 18.

South Shore Tri-Town Development Corp. named Barletta Heavy Division, a Canton firm, as a preferred bidder to construct the remaining portion of the parkway last year.

The parkway has a design that is 25 percent complete.

Construction at the base has come to a halt because the state agency that is overseeing the redevelopment of the base is negotiating with the Navy to obtain 835 acres it controls on the southern portion of the complex.

The Navy is requesting $43 million for the land, but Patrick and U.S. Rep. William Delahunt are urging Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus to sell the acres for a lower price.

Patrick has designated the base makeover project as a municipal growth district

This title permits state officials to label these locations as “development ready” to get commercial and residential development on the fast track.

LNR Property Corp. plans to construct 2,855 homes and two million square feet of commercial enterprises at the base in phases during the next 14 years.

The dwellings will include rentals and ownership housing.

LNR’s blueprint also includes a hotel, an 18-hole golf course, a conference center, boutique shops, restaurants, hiking baths, walkways, recreational fields, and a two million square foot commercial complex to accommodate a pharmaceutical company or biotechnology firm.

Copyright 2010 Weymouth News. Some rights reserved

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