BATON ROUGE, La. — In Louisiana, dubbed by some as “Hollywood South,” lawmakers advanced a bill that would extend a motion picture tax credit program, which attracts movie producers and film companies to the state, by another decade.
But opponents say that it is time for the incentive program to expire, slamming it for returning only pennies on the dollar to the state treasury. Critics say the money to fund the film tax breaks would be better spent in financially struggling sectors of the state budget, including education, infrastructure, and law enforcement positions.
“At the end of the day, we have much more significant things that we can spend our money on,” Republican Rep. Richard Nelson said during a debate on the House floor Monday. “I invite you to tell me which of these movies (filmed in Louisiana) is worth more than the bridge in your district, the school in your district, or paying your police.”
Lawmakers in the state House passed a bill which proposes extending the motion picture tax credit program, that is set to expire in two years, until 2035. The legislation, which was voted in favor of 74-24 and advances to the Senate next, would allocate $150 million a year to film tax breaks.
Republican House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, who sponsored the bill, applauded the program for its role in the state's dramatic film industry growth that he says has brought money and jobs to the state.
“It’s helping a lot of local people, and it’s helping our state as a whole,” Schexnayder said.
But opponents repeatedly questioned the return on investment, citing a report by the Louisiana Economic Development agency that found for every dollar spent on the tax credit program Louisiana recoups about 23 cents back.
“It is a terrible, terrible, return,” said Nelson, who is running for governor this year.
Democratic New Orleans Rep. Mandie Landry, whose city is the epicenter of Louisiana's film industry, said that citing the one study is “cherry-picking to spin a narrative.” She pointed out that the study does not account for other benefits of the industry, money spent in the state for supplies to create sets or locals employed for jobs — such as caterers — while filming occurs.
In addition, Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser put out a study that shows that 53% of visitors said something they saw about Louisiana in movies or on TV motivated their trip to the state.
Over the last decade, the film tax break has drawn controversy, especially in years when Louisiana grappled with repeated budget shortfalls and cut spending in areas like health care and education. A similar bill to extend the program was filed in 2021, but it failed in the House.
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