By Becca Heller
An emergency bill expanding existing tax credits for film and TV production from $7.5 million to $25 million passed in the House of Delegates Tuesday , 108 votes to 31. The bill, SB183, which passed passed the Senate unanimously and now heads to the governor's desk, sparked debate on the House floor as several Republican delegates expressed staunch opposition to the initiative.
“This bill provides $25 million to companies who are located outside of the state so they can film in the state,” said Del. Mark Fisher, R-Calvert. “This is on top of the 2012 raising taxes on thousand-naires and what looks like raising gas taxes this year as well. Using taxpayer money -- that’s 25 million dollars worth for folks who aren’t even located in Maryland.”
Delegates in support of the bill asserted that the increased tax credits would revive Maryland’s stalled film industry and generate revenue for businesses in the state, and cited past productions that successfully came out of the state. Recent productions filmed in Maryland include Kevin Spacey’s “House of Cards,” “VEEP” with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and “Game Change” with Julianne Moore.
CORRECTION: “There’s probably not many programs that have a demonstrated success rate like this one does,” said Del. Melony Griffith
Veronica Turner, D-Prince George’s. “The question is not whether or not Maryland benefits from this bill, the question is do we want to compete with other parts of the country to win film to our state.”
Opponents expressed doubt that this bill would stimulate the economy as supporters of the bill suggest.
“We’re doing this to help the small businesses in the state, and yet, in plain print on the fiscal note, it says that it will have very little impact on the small businesses of the state,” said Del. Herb McMillan, R-Anne Arundel. “Note to self: check fiscal notes before beginning a debate.”
Ending the discussion following the vote, one opponent of the bill went so far as to jokingly suggest that the bill might be part of the governor’s plan to gain celebrity allies for a future presidential campaign.
“I’m thinking to myself: I’m confused. Who benefits from this? Who would need friends in California?” Del. Pat Mcdonough said, pausing as members of the body chuckled knowingly. “Who would need to make Michael Moore and George Clooney happy? Who would need an emergency bill to get them on his side as quickly as possible? I have no idea...but his first initial is M!”