Hollywood South supporters talk benefits of tax credits at state capitol

Hollywood South supporters talk benefits of tax credits at state Capitol

BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - People tied to the state's film and movie-making industry showed up in force at the state Capitol on Monday to speak up for tax incentives earmarked for the industry.

With the ongoing budget crisis, some legislators seek hard numbers on the return on investment for film and movie industry tax breaks.

It was not too long ago that "Hollywood South" was all the rage.

"I would say at this time we're on life support," said Phil LoCicero, International Vice President of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts or IATSE.

The Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee discussed tax incentives Monday.

"We have to make a decision whether it's a good return on our investment, and that's what it really comes down to," said Sen. Jay Luneau, D-Alexandria.

"They seem to want hard numbers on the return on investment which in this industry - it's almost impossible to give you a hard number. We don't sell a product, 13,000 jobs and the return on investment is we look at it as economic impact versus return on investment," LoCicero said.

He attended the legislative committee meeting.

LoCicero said they turned over to the committee 1,800 testimonials from people across the state in the industry, as well as businesses that are benefiting from the tax credit program indirectly. Still, the industry says it's feeling the effects of the capping of state payments for film tax credits at $180 million annually under former Gov. Bobby Jindal.

"They'll only pay out $180 million, which leaves an uncertainty to the producer as to when they go to cash in their incentive, will they get their money?" said LoCicero.

And he said all the uncertainty about projects has many seeking work outside the state.

"What's alarming is that even our own members are transferring to other locals, many Georgia, unfortunately," said LoCicero.

Still, some lawmakers question whether the state is getting enough bang for the bucks being spent on tax credits, not just those related to Hollywood South.

"The majority of the film productions are crewed-up locally. Productions spend millions of dollars with local vendors, small businesses across our state," said Corey Parker, business agent for IATSE Local 478.

Some small business owners echoed that.

"I hope that going forward the legislature will keep small business owners like myself in mind when you make any adjustments to the film incentives program," said Susan Davis.

Some locals spoke about how the industry is losing out to some other states.

"California has incentives, New York has incentives, Georgia has incentives, Canada they have incentives," LoCicero said.

But some in the legislature say the state's dire financial picture cannot be ignored.

"We have to make decisions about whether or not people live, children live, and that's the - if we had money this would be an easy decision," said Sen. Luneau.

No vote was taken by the committee.

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