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House panel OKs bill to trim NM film incentive spending

SANTA FE — A proposal to reduce spending on New Mexico’s film incentive program, by lowering the annual cap to $30 million and deferring claims, has passed its first hurdle at the Roundhouse.

The House Ways and Means Committee voted 7-5 along party lines — with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed — to advance the measure, House Bill 15, to the full House.

Film industry workers and representatives testified en masse against the cost-saving bill, as did the president and CEO of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce.

But backers of the measure defended it as fair given the belt-tightening other state agencies and programs are facing.

“All we’re asking the film industry to do is allow us to take a little longer for the payout,” said Rep. Rod Montoya, R-Farmington.

New Mexico currently offers a 25 percent rebate to film companies for most direct, in-state expenditures. Under 2011 legislation that was dubbed the Breaking Bad bill, long-running television programs are eligible for an additional 5 percent credit — or 30 percent in all.

The legislation under consideration at the Capitol would reduce spending on film rebates to no more than $30 million — there’s currently a $50 million annual cap on film credit spending — by postponing payment on some film rebate applications for one year.

“I just really think this sends a bad message to the industry,” said Rep. Carl Trujillo, D-Santa Fe. “They’re looking for reliability and consistency.”

Even if it’s passed by the Republican-controlled House, the film incentive legislation would still have to go the Democratic-controlled Senate before reaching Gov. Susana Martinez’s desk.  The Senate did not include the measure in a package of solvency bills it passed earlier in the ongoing special session.