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Study: Film tax break costs Louisiana millions

by Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana taxpayers are losing roughly two-thirds of the money they put into the state’s film tax credit program, despite lawmakers’ changes to offer less breaks, a new study shows.

The preliminary figures unveiled Thursday show that for every dollar spent on the tax credit programs for the entertainment industry, state and local governments in Louisiana get about 36 cents back in tax revenue, said Michael N’dolo, vice president for Camoin Associates. The New York-based firm conducted the study for Louisiana Economic Development, and unveiled it at the Louisiana Entertainment Summit in Baton Rouge, The Advocate reported .

The study includes the sound and live entertainment industries but the vast majority of the spending comes from the film industry, N’dolo said.

Louisiana’s motion picture production tax credit reimburses film and television producers up to 40 percent of the cost of their work in the state.

The film tax break has drawn controversy in recent years for its cost as Louisiana has grappled with repeated budget shortfalls and cut spending in areas like health care and education.

In 2015, legislators capped the amount of credits that could be claimed at $180 million. They changed it again in 2017 to cap it at $150 million. The program has issued $1.5 billion in tax credits since 2012, including roughly $150 million given last year, according to figures from Louisiana Economic Development.

Gov. John Bel Edwards spoke at the industry event, saying the changes are a stabilizer for filmmakers, who have renewed confidence and are returning to Louisiana. He touted TV series such as “NCIS: New Orleans.”

Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson said 17 productions are ongoing in the state and are expected to spend $300 million collectively. Most are TV shows, which Pierson said provide longer-term job prospects than movies.

The report found that the state budget took a net $122 million hit to reach those numbers.

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