Audit reveals new details about motion picture tax credit program


State Treasurer John Kennedy believers a newly-released performance audit of the state's Motion Picture Tax Credit program shows it's working.  The report from the legislative auditor shows the state shells out a lot more than it gets back from the movie industry, but industry officials say that's only part of the story.

"This is a camera truck and this is a one-room talent trailer," said Andre Champagne as he showed off a few or his company's assets.

Champagne's business, Hollywood Trucks, keeps the movie industry moving. The business benefits from tax credits that keep productions coming to the state.

"We've been in it since 2002. We have such a head start, we just can't let go," he said.

Louisiana's legislative auditor released a report Monday that shows the state issued $196 million in tax credits in 2010, but received only $27 million in tax revenue back. That resulted in a net cost of $169.8 million to the state.

But, there's a flip side, as explained by the state treasurer.  "The state spent $196.8 million in tax credits and those tax credits generated $1.08 billion in total economic output," Kennedy said.

In other words, for each dollar of tax credits the Office of Entertainment Industry Development issued in 2010, the total economic output was about $5.40.

Susan Brennan of Second Line Stages cites a ripple effect.  "You might see only one company but you don't see the other 10 people working there, moving here, buying cars." she said.

The governor and some state lawmakers have floated the idea of tinkering with the present tax credits. Brennan warns that, if that happens, "They'll go elsewhere. Georgia is building new stages and if we lose these tax credits all our production will go to Georgia."

"The real long-term benefit of the investments are the creation of an entire industry," said Will French of the Louisiana Film and Entertainment Association. "It's the creation of 14,000 jobs when originally we had 200."

Michael Boutte of the Legislative Auditor's Office says there's a tremendous economic benefit, but it comes at a cost to state government.

Champagne says it would be catastrophic if legislation changed things. "It's a phenomenal program and it needs to stay exactly where it is," he said.

To read the audit, click here.