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Senate approves ‘Breaking Bad’ rebate measure

SANTA FE – A bill that would expand New Mexico’s film rebate program is one step closer to Gov. Susana Martinez’s desk, after the Senate voted 32-8 on Monday to approve an amended version of legislation already passed by the House.

The measure, which has been dubbed the “Breaking Bad” bill after a popular Albuquerque-based TV show, would tweak the film rebate program, in part by allowing qualifying television shows to take in larger tax incentives from the state.

“This is a step forward to make New Mexico the film capital of the world,” said Sen. Phil Griego, D-San Jose, who sponsored House Bill 379 in the Senate.

However, a spokesman for Gov. Susana Martinez suggested the bill could face a possible veto if tax breaks proposed by the first-term GOP governor are not approved by the Legislature.

“Governor Martinez has expressed a willingness to consider a film bill, but it can’t be in isolation and must be part of a larger, more comprehensive package that levels the playing field to help create more jobs in New Mexico,” spokesman Enrique Knell said.

The legislation approved Monday, HB 379, would enact new limits on giving rebates to nonresidents.

It would leave the state’s $50 million annual cap on film rebates intact but would allow up to $10 million unspent under the yearly limit to be carried forward for use in future years. Such a provision would have allowed more money to be spent this year, because just $9 million in film rebates were paid out in the past fiscal year.

The state currently offers a 25 percent rebate to film companies for most direct, in-state expenditures. Under the bill approved Monday, qualifying TV shows filmed in the state would also be eligible for an additional 5 percent tax credit – or 30 percent in all.

Backers of the legislation say it would reinvigorate the state’s film industry, which sagged after new restrictions were enacted in 2011.

But skeptics, some of whom voted for the bill, said the state’s film rebate program has given rise to a corporate welfare system.

“Basically, we’ve created a dependent here, and you can’t cut your dependent child loose,” said Senate GOP Whip William Payne of Albuquerque.

Since the bill was amended in the Senate, it must go back to the House for concurrence before moving on to Martinez’s desk for final approval. The House concurrence vote could take place as early as today.
— This article appeared on page A4 of the Albuquerque Journal

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