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N.M. hopes bill will keep films coming

As the TV series that helped cement Albuquerque’s reputation as a film center draws to a close, New Mexico officials are optimistic that a so-called “Breaking Bad” bill to sweeten incentives for television productions will help the state maintain its competitive edge.

Lawmakers as part of a last-minute business tax package on Saturday passed a bill to increase from 25 percent to 30 percent the rebates allowed for television shows, reviving a plan that had been vetoed by the governor a day earlier. The proposal also effectively increases the $50 million annual cap on payouts to the industry by letting unused funds roll over from one year to the next.

In vetoing the initial proposal, Gov. Susana Martinez said she supported Hollywood but could not give tax cuts to just one industry if lawmakers refused her request to pass a broader package of business tax cuts. In a last-minute deal, the Legislature complied, and Martinez has promised to sign off on the new film incentives proposal.

The proposal puts the state among the top for television incentives domestically, according to Wayne Rauschenberger, chief operating officer of Albuquerque Studios.

“We’re excited,” he said Wednesday, noting the popular television series “Breaking Bad” is wrapping up its final show at the studios next month.

“We are already getting inquiries. … The television season really starts to pick up around May, so we are expecting between now and May to get more calls.”

Another popular showed filmed in Albuquerque, “In Plain Sight,” ended its final season at I-25 Studios last year.

Rauschenberger said television series are crucial business for studios because you know they will be back every year.

“Feature films tend to spend more … but you never know which one is coming next,” he said.

In addition to the increased rebate, Rauschenberger said a provision of the bill that allows $10 million in unused subsidies to carry over to the next year is important for attracting television productions because they have smaller budgets and work on shorter time frames so they need a guarantee their rebates will be made promptly. Under current law, the rebates are doled out on a first-come, first-served basis until the cap is reached. With the provision that allows unused money to rollover, the cap effectively increases after slow years, like the past few.

The industry has been struggling through a slowdown in New Mexico, which film officials have blamed on the economy and Martinez’s imposition of the rebate cap after she took office two years ago.

But Ann Lerner, head of the city of Albuquerque’s film office, said things are picking up and she expects momentum from the new legislation.

“We’re busy, the state is definitely busy,” she said.