NM: Griego Leads Push To Get Rid Of Film Rebate Cap

And they’re off! After several weeks of speculation, the first of the legislative efforts around the film and media industry is now public. Sen. Phil Griego, D-San Jose, said in a news release from the Senate Democrats that he plans to introduce legislation that will remove the $50 million annual cap on film incentives.

Albuquerque Business First had indicated several weeks ago this was in the offing.

However, this effort is apparently not part of a planned legislative agenda from a coalition of film and media industry groups, such as NMEDIA. Despite what I wrote in my last post, there has been no announcement on this point yet. It seems some factions are pushing for a cap removal. Others may take a less extreme approach. But apparently (I am told) meetings are ongoing, including some with the executive branch to see where there is agreement on what could be successfully passed in this session to make the existing 25 percent tax rebate and other incentives more attractive to production companies.

There was a sense of déjà vu in today’s Albuquerque Journal article. Gov. Susana Martinez made it abundantly clear she would not support eliminating the cap, or increasing it, and spurred memories of her saying the rebate was a “subsidy to Hollywood on the backs of our schoolchildren” when she first entered office.

“I’m not going to take money out of a classroom and tell the kids that the film industry is needing the money,” Martinez told the Journal. “You’ve got to prioritize.”

I’m guessing a few industry folks cringed when they heard that. Many have said over the last few years that the heated rhetoric around this issue was actually more damaging than the changes made to the tax rebate program.

Sen. Tim Keller, D-Albuquerque is also working on several jobs-related bills. He noted that with a strategic plan being offered by Democrats, it’s possible to “target incentives in the areas where we have a competitive advantage.” He says that means industries with a high return on investment and noted that these included technology, energy, film and valued-added agriculture.

Milan Simonich writes in the El Paso Times that Keller has also floated an idea to create separate rebate categories — one for television series and one for movies. Keller tells Simonich that TV series bring more consistent work to the state but if they claim most of the $50 million each year there won’t be enough left for films.

The shows “In Plain Sight” and “Breaking Bad” have brought a steady stream of production work to the state over their five-year seasons and it’s nice to see actor Bryan Cranston giving shoutouts to the crews here whenever he gets one of his numerous awards, including his recent SAG recognition.

Keller has often pushed legislation that would measure the effectiveness of all kinds of incentives in the state. He did get a bill passed in the 2011 session that would study the effectiveness of the film incentives, so the legislature would have more information when the debate comes up again on incentives. But, as KRQE reported, not much has happened.

Tim Korte, public information officer at the Department of Finance and Administration, says a request for proposals on the film study is still being drafted and DFA hopes to issue the RFP this spring, perhaps as early as March.

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