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North Carolina weighs the future of filming tax breaks

Marketplace Contributor Aug 12, 2014
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These days, you don’t have to be in Hollywood or New York City to make a blockbuster movie.  Southern states like Louisiana, Georgia and North Carolina now have a big chunk of the action.

But in North Carolina, it’s not clear if the tax credit that has helped lure big movie productions to the state will continue.

North Carolina fought hard to get the makers of “Iron Man 3” to film in its borders.  It was a top grossing movie last year.

The mayor of Wilmington, North Carolina is Bill Saffo.  He recently invited Governor Pat McCrory to visit the film studios and staff in his city to see the economic impact first-hand. Saffo worries about the blow his city would take if the state’s package of film incentives ended.

“God help us, I hope we can keep it and save it for all of us for many years to come,” said Saffo.

“Iron Man 3” was filmed in Wilmington.  So was the hit television series “Under the Dome”.  Saffo believes subsidies helped bring them, so he wants the state to continue its lucrative 25 percent tax credit, giving  filmmakers up to $20 million in tax refunds. Not everyone in North Carolina agrees.

A radio ad from “Americans for Prosperity North Carolina” is airing in Raleigh, Greensboro and Wilmington.   It says, “Tell Raleigh to put North Carolina first, not Hollywood producers.  Stop the Hollywood handouts.” Americans for Prosperity is a group that lobbies against excessive government spending.

Debate over film industry subsidies is growing nationwide as well.

Kevin Clark is Executive Director of the Association for Film Commissioners International.  He says now is not the time for states to pull the incentives – film-making brings jobs.

“They’re well-paying jobs, they are usually above what the median income is in the area,” said Clark.

North Carolina, like several other states, has to decide what level of subsidy, if any, is appropriate.  Right now, lawmakers are deadlocked over a state budget for a fiscal year that has already started.

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