BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - The film industries future in Louisiana was up for debate Wednesday night in the Senate Finance Committee as lawmakers scramble to fill a budget gap before the end of the session.
The Senate Finance Committee passed House Bill 829, with minor amendments to cap the tax credits offered to filmmakers at more than $200 million per year and $30 million per project.
The state has doled out nearly $250 million in a single year at the most.
"The program has not had the return on investment that it should and I think in our current fiscal crisis, everyone who I've spoken to, legitimate large-scale production companies say, ' I don't love the cap, but I can live with the cap as long as the cap is a reasonable amount and it keeps us competitive," Senator J.P. Morrell said.
But some within the industry feel a cap might stifle their growth and send movie makers out of the state.
"It's a band of gypsies and they go where the work is and I appreciate that, but they also are those who have built a lot of infrastructure who are now competitive so we're trying to strike a proper balance on it," Senator Dan Claitor said.
Lawmakers feel the groups who are committed to the state will stay put, despite a cap, leaving the folks who use Louisiana for the deals to reconsider their loyalty to Louisiana.
"It's still a very generous cap, how many states in the union are giving out dollars for motion pictures, and people say they'll leave if you put a cap on us, I guess we know where the loyalty lies," Senator Jack Donahue said.
Either way, most lawmakers agree the program cannot be scrapped because of the payout it brings to thousands of citizens.
"The 13,000 jobs it creates, not to mention the ripple effects with business that subsist off the movie industry and the tremendous amount of good will it's brought us across the country, I think the program is worth salvaging," Sen. Morrell said.
The bill to cap tax credits could still be bargained down to a smaller cap, but will likely see a contentious debate on the Senate floor before moving to the Governor's desk.