A proposal to continue the state’s film tax credit in reduced form failed Wednesday morning in the House Finance Committee.
Rep. Ted Davis, the New Hanover County Republican who established a caucus to impress upon legislators the perceived benefits of the credit, introduced an amendment during the finance committee’s morning meeting to extend the credit to 2017 with modifications.
Currently, productions that spend at least $250,000 can get a 25 percent refundable credit, with a cap of $20 million for a single movie. The cap doesn’t apply to television series.
That program is set to expire at the end of this year.
Davis’s amendment sought to continue the credit at 22.5 percent and with a $15 million cap, but it failed on a 20-16 vote.
Still on the table is a possible grant program (related story) to replace the refundable credit, which critics say is expensive to government and unfairly favors one industry.
According to a statewide report from the state’s revenue department for tax year 2013, 33 productions spent $244.7 million and employed 13,649 workers for the tax year. They asked for $61.1 million from North Carolina’s coffers.
Most of the period’s film spending was in the tri-county area. The CBS series “Under the Dome,” for one, spent $33.3 million and filed for more than $8 million in incentives.
Bill Vassar, executive vice president of EUE/Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington, was livid at Wednesday’s committee decision.
“After 18 years of privately investing, building and nurturing the film industry in North Carolina, my company is shocked and stunned that events in the House Finance Committee this morning left the North Carolina film industry seriously, perhaps fatally weakened,” Vassar said in a statement.
Film credit supporters fear the industry will vacate North Carolina for other states more accommodating. Georgia, for one, doesn’t have a sunset date on its film incentive.
“We are re-examining our commitment to North Carolina,” Vassar said. “Unless new legislation is generated and approved in the coming hours, it’s clear we are not welcome to invest our company’s money, time and talent here any longer.”
The North Carolina chapter of aisle-right group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) put out a statement as well, but applauding the proposal’s failure.
“If the state is going to spend money, then it should spend it on core government functions, such as education and transportation,” said Donald Bryson, AFP’s deputy state director. “Subsidizing film productions in North Carolina should not be a function of state government and I doubt that there is a taxpayer in North Carolina that would disagree with that.”