Film tax credit fight nears
BATON ROUGE- Mayor Kip Holden made an impassioned defense of the state film tax credit at a press conference that unveiled more films to be shot in Baton Rouge.
"This industry is too important to shut the door on people who need jobs, can do these jobs, and can make a difference in the quality of their lives," said Holden.
In 2014, the film industry pumped $180 million dollars into the Baton Rouge economy. At a time when city-parish leaders fear losing millions of dollars from a potential repeal of the inventory tax, the film industry is seen as vital for generating revenue in Baton Rouge.
For the better part of ten years, the film industry has been booming, largely due to an unlimited film industry tax credit. Major movie companies are able to produce films, and Louisiana tax payers subsidize as much as one third of the costs. In 2014, the state reimbursed film companies $226 million.
The Louisiana Budget Project, a watchdog group, is one of the chief critics of the tax credit. "We keep spending less and less on colleges and more and more on movies," said Steve Spires, a LBP policy analyst.
LBP wants to cap the program and divert tax revenue to colleges, roads, and hospitals, areas facing devastating cuts in the budget. Currently state lawmakers are struggling to fill a $1.6 billion deficit.
Film industry leaders point out that the movie business is diversifying Louisiana's job market, one largely dominated by the oil industry. According to the Louisiana Department of Economic Development, the movie industry has created 33,000 jobs.
However, critics, like LBP, say it's time for tax payers to get out of the movie business and let the industry pay for itself. "Subsidizing does help support jobs," said Spires, "but spending money on schools and roads and hospitals also supports jobs, and investing in higher education and roads is important for long term economic health."
Film industry leaders say curbing the tax credit will cause movie makers to leave the state. They point to other states like Georgia with their own tax credit programs that would draw companies away from Louisiana.
Thursday the Louisiana House of Representatives will vote on a number of bills designed to cap the film tax credit.