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Film Rebate ‘Compromise’ Proposed

SANTA FE – New Mexico-based television shows that follow in the footsteps of “Breaking Bad” and “In Plain Sight” could pocket larger tax rebates from the state, under legislation introduced Thursday by an Albuquerque lawmaker.

The bill sponsored by House Democratic Whip Antonio “Moe” Maestas would also tweak the annual limits on film rebates – established in 2011 – so that any money under the $50 million cap that went unspent could be available for use in future budget years.

“It’s kind of like raising the cap without jeopardizing the certainty of the budget,” Maestas told reporters.

A spokesman for Gov. Susana Martinez said Thursday that the Republican governor supports the “carry-over” concept but has not reviewed the legislation in its entirety.

However, a top-ranking House Republican signaled there could be bipartisan support for the measure, House Bill 379.

“I fully anticipate this is something we can get done,” said House GOP Whip Nate Gentry of Albuquerque.

Duke City-based television shows “Breaking Bad” and “In Plain Sight” have helped put New Mexico on the map for film production, though the state has seen a decrease in filming since limits were placed on the film incentive program.

New Mexico’s film incentive program offers a 25 percent rebate to film companies for most direct, in-state expenditures. Under the changes implemented in 2011, those rebates can be paid out over three years, and there is a $50 million cap on yearly rebate spending.

Under the bill introduced Thursday by Maestas, certain New Mexico-based TV shows would be eligible for an additional 5 percent credit – or 30 percent in all. To qualify for the higher incentives, a production would have to film at least six episodes in a single season or spend at least $500,000 on construction.

Meanwhile, the carry-over provision would allow for state film rebate spending to exceed $50 million a year, if spending during the previous budget year fell short of the cap.

That would have been the case for the most recent fiscal year, the first since the cap was enacted, when the state approved $19 million in film incentives, according to the Taxation and Revenue Department. However, the agency said it expects the total amount to be higher during the current budget year.

The changes in the film incentive law could help create new jobs, Maestas said.

“We must create the perception, not only in statute but also in rhetoric, that we love the film industry,” he added.

Studies on the impact of the incentive program have offered varying conclusions: One found that the rebates bring in more money than they cost the state, but another concluded the state received just 14 cents in tax revenue for every $1 spent.
— This article appeared on page A6 of the Albuquerque Journal