Michigan’s film credits are a step closer to being eliminated by the state Legislature. A House panel approved a bill Wednesday that would end the program on October 1st.
The vote was largely party-line, with almost all Republicans voting in favor and most Democrats voting against. The legislation now heads to the House floor.
Supporters of House Bill 4122 say the incentives do not create enough jobs or economic activity to justify their cost. And some point to a major shortfall in the state budget, saying Michigan can no longer afford the $50 million program.
That budget hole was largely created when more companies than expected cashed in other tax credits, which were mostly created during the recession in order to spur economic growth.
“I think it’s irresponsible to add new tax credits to new business when we don’t know where we’re going to get the money to pay for our old tax credits for businesses that are already here,” said state Rep. Dan Lauwers (R-Brockway).
Supporters of the film incentives say the argument that the program is not working is premature. They say just the fact that politicians in Lansing are debating the bill hurts the program’s chances.
“The instability really does have an impact right now – whether it passes or not,” said Patrick Kelly, a carpenter and stagehand from Pontiac who says he has worked on numerous films and television shows in recent years.
“To me, this should be a nonpartisan issue. We’re creating jobs in Michigan. I mean, we’re not surprised that it came out of (committee) – but we’re ready for a fight on it.”
Kelly was at the state Capitol on behalf of his union, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts (IATSE) Local 38.
During its “lame duck” session in December, the previous Legislature approved extending the life of the film incentive program through 2021.
Former state Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) had long been the biggest proponent of the credits in the Legislature, and had successfully fought previous efforts to eliminate them. Richardville left the Legislature after 2014 due to term limits.