Rita Benson LeBlanc shows support for film tax credits at state capitol

Rita Benson LeBlanc shows support for film tax credits at state capitol
FOX 8 photo

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Rita Benson LeBlanc joined supporters of the state's film tax credits program in urging state lawmakers Tuesday not to tamper with the program that has movie makers flocking to the state. But critics said with state government facing a $1.6 billion funding shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year, expenses tied to the program need to be reeled in by the state.

The House Ways and Means Committee ended up voting in favor of proposals to cap the tax credits.

"I go to work and I earn my money. It's not a stimulus, it's not a subsidy," a worker in the local film industry told members of the House Ways and Means Committee.

"You obviously can see the task we have before us. It's not an easy task," Rep. Robert Johnson told supporters in attendance.

"We may be cutting the very industry that is indeed a lucrative industry," said Shedrick Roy, another supporter of the program.

And waiting her turn at the speaker's table was LeBlanc.

"To be in the film industry requires tax credits, and that's the reality of just the marketplace and business," she said.

She is part of the Louisiana Film and Entertainment Association.

"It's not just about a tourism element, it's about teaching the art and craft of film making," she said.

Some lawmakers on the committee referenced the importance of the film industry as part of the discussion.

"UNO actually built a studio, so to kill the program actually does some harm to our universities, so I mean I think there's a yin and yang there," said Rep. Julie Stokes, of Kenner.

The committee eventually supported three proposals to cut back on the state's generous film and TV production tax credit program. One would cap tax credits at $150 million, another at $200 million and a third at $226 million.

But not before passionate pleas from public speakers.

"If it's something that's not working, why California be trying to copy it, and bring their productions back?" said a local man who moved to California to work in the film industry, but is now back home.

The committee rejected an effort to phase out the program entirely. Now the measures capping the tax incentives will be considered by the full state house.

Copyright 2015 WVUE. All rights reserved.