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Governor signs bill lifting film rebate cap

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Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham speaks at Albuquerque Studios on Friday before she signed Senate Bill 2, which raises the film cap in New Mexico. (Adrian Gomez/Journal )

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — With a swift signature, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham boldly stated that New Mexico remains a key player in the film industry.

Lujan Grisham signed Senate Bill 2 on Friday at Albuquerque Studios, delivering on a promise to boost the state’s film, television and media industry and provide for steady growth in an economic sector that supporters say keeps New Mexicans employed and offers young adults the opportunity to build a sustainable career.

The bill, which passed on a bipartisan vote, raises the cap on what can be paid out to film and TV productions from $50 million to $110 million in a single year.

It also pays $250 million of the state’s $382 million backlog of rebates for movies and TV shows  filmed in New Mexico.

“There was a backlog and that causes some trepidation,” Lujan Grisham said. “Allowing us to pay down what we owe sends a very strong message to the industry that New Mexico pays its bills.”

Currently, film companies receive a 25 percent rebate on goods and service expenses for most projects in New Mexico and up to a 30 percent rebate for some TV shows.

Since 2003, the film industry has brought in $3.44 billion to the state.

During fiscal year 2017, the direct spend in New Mexico from the film industry was about $464.6 million. Expenditures that qualified for a rebate stood at $324 million, which left $140.4 million as the portion that did not qualify for rebates.

Also inside the bill is a way for the film industry to grow into the rural and native areas of the state.

An additional 5 percent tax credit will be added for companies that take the productions to rural areas.

“Anything outside of the Albuquerque/Santa Fe corridor qualifies for that,” said Alicia J. Keyes,secretary of the Economic Development Department. “This is a way to get productions into every community around the state. It’s important to spread the productions across the state.”

The bill also has some carve-outs for companies who make a commitment to stay in the state for at least 10 years.

Netflix is a perfect example.

The streaming media giant purchased Albuquerque Studios in October to become a production hub in the United States. The company said that in 10 years, it will bring $1 billion in direct spending to the state.

Under the new legislation, Netflix and its productions are exempt from the cap.

“It makes sense for Netflix,” Keyes said. “Any New Mexico partner that commits to being here by either leasing or buying a facility, they aren’t subject to the cap. This means that our crews will have more stability. It works well for the industry.”

The legislation is sponsored by Sen. Nancy Rodriguez, D-Santa Fe.

Rep. Antonio Maestas, D-Bernalillo, was also a champion of the bill. He said it will bring millions of dollars into the state that will multiply many times over, as well as providing high paying jobs.

“Now everyone in the film industry knows that New Mexico is stable,” Maestas said. “The entire world will know that as well.”

Moving forward, Keyes wants to double the amount of stages in New Mexico.

She said with the new legislation and Netflix, New Mexico has become a bigger hot spot.

“There has been more interest and we are setting ourselves up to be the movie making hub outside of LA and New York,” Keyes said. “It’s a super strong bill and allows the state to be fiscally responsible all while having a thriving industry.”

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