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Disney exec: ‘Breaking Bad’ bill a ‘game-changer’

SANTA FE – A bill that would expand New Mexico’s film tax credit program for long-running television shows would make the state one of the planet’s most attractive filming sites, a top-ranking film industry executive said Tuesday.

Mary Ann Hughes, vice president for film and television production planning at the Walt Disney Co., which owns and operates several television networks, told the Journal she is watching the legislation closely.

“It’s a game-changer for us,” Hughes said. “It puts New Mexico as among the top leaders in the world regarding locations for a television series.”

The House sent the legislation to Gov. Susana Martinez’s desk Tuesday, one day after the bill was passed by the Senate on a 32-8 vote.

Among other things, the measure, which has been dubbed the “Breaking Bad” bill after a popular Albuquerque-based TV show, would allow qualifying TV shows to take in larger tax rebates from the state.

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

If the changes are enacted, New Mexico will be the preferred filming site for a new TV drama series that could begin production in July, Hughes said. A pilot for the series, which would have to be picked up for the show to be aired, is under production.

“It would be our top choice,” Hughes said of New Mexico.

In recent years, popular Albuquerque-based TV shows “Breaking Bad” and “In Plain Sight” have helped put New Mexico on the map for film production. Numerous movies have also been filmed in the state.

However, the state’s film industry sagged after new restrictions – such as a $50 million annual cap on film rebates – were implemented in 2011.

In addition to expanding the film tax incentive program for qualifying TV shows, the bill making its way to Martinez’s desk would also enact new limits on giving rebates to nonresidents.

While the legislation, House Bill 379, would leave the state’s annual cap on film rebates intact, it would allow up to $10 million unspent under the yearly limit to be carried forward for use in future budget years.

A Martinez spokesman said this week that the Republican governor is willing to consider signing the “Breaking Bad” bill into law, but warned that it should be part of a larger tax package. Such a tax package is pending in the Senate.
— This article appeared on page A4 of the Albuquerque Journal

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