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Panel OKs bigger tax credits for TV shows

SANTA FE – A bill that would expand New Mexico’s film rebate program for certain television shows shot within the state’s borders cruised through a House committee Friday, with top-ranking state film officials and labor leaders giving it their backing.

Dubbed the “Breaking Bad bill” after a popular TV series that was filmed in Albuquerque, the legislation was unanimously approved by the 15-member House Taxation and Revenue Committee.

If enacted, House Bill 379 would allow long-running New Mexico-based TV shows to pocket larger tax incentives from the state. It would also tweak the annual limits on film rebates so that money unspent under the annual $50 million cap could be used in future budget years, while enacting new limits on giving rebates to nonresidents.

“This will attract people to New Mexico without giving money to anybody who’s not supposed to be getting it,” said Jon Hendry, the business agent for a local film workers union.

The state currently offers a 25 percent rebate to film companies for most direct, in-state expenditures.

Under the bill sponsored by House Democratic Whip Antonio “Moe” Maestas of Albuquerque, qualifying in-state TV shows would be eligible for an additional 5 percent tax credit – or 30 percent in all.

Maestas has said the legislation would send a positive message to the film industry and could create new jobs.

Before Friday’s vote, however, the legislation had been stalled for several weeks as Maestas worked behind the scenes with film industry representatives and Gov. Susana Martinez’s office to find common ground.

Nick Maniatis, director of the state Film Office, told committee members an agreement is nearly in place, but he didn’t say what details still need to be worked out.

“We’re not quite there, but we’re very confident that we’ll get there as the process continues,” Maniaits said.

Martinez, who pushed to limit the state’s film incentive program after taking office in 2011, has said she supports the carry-over concept. Under the changes implemented two years ago, those rebates can be paid out over three years and there is a $50 million annual cap on rebate spending.

New Mexico had a decrease in filming after the 2011 limits were enacted, and just $9 million in film incentives were paid out in the most recent fiscal year, according to the Taxation and Revenue Department.

The “Breaking Bad” bill now advances to the House floor. Similar legislation is also pending in the Senate.
— This article appeared on page A4 of the Albuquerque Journal