Actors speak up for N.J. prod'n tax credit

Producers, union reps to protest plans to eliminate program

NEW YORK -- Actors, producers and union representatives will speak out against New Jersey's plans to eliminate the state's production tax credit program at a hearing Wednesday.

Facing a big budget deficit, Gov. Chris Christie has proposed ending the $10 million annual program as of the beginning of the state's new fiscal year on July 1.

But industry folks highlight an increase in productions and entertainment industry jobs created since the launch of the incentives for film, TV and digital media projects.

Wednesday's hearing comes as New York state legislators continue to argue over their state's budget proposal, which includes $420 million in annual production incentives over five years, but has been held up by political conflict. N.Y. Gov. David Paterson in his budget bill listed the production incentives program as a key revenue generator as the credits have shown to boost tax revenue well ahead of any state outlays.

The New Jersey governor seems to see his state's incentives program -- which is capped at $10 million a year, for a total maximum $100 million through the original expiration date of 2015 -- more as a handout without benefits. Jersey offers a 20% tax credit to producers who spend 60% of their budgets in the state, exclusive of postproduction costs.

According to the MPAA, Jersey has nearly 7,000 direct production jobs, which have increased more than 14% since the inception of the incentives program. These jobs paid $511 million in wages, or an average wage of $74,000, well above the statewide average of $55,000.

A major motion picture shooting in Jersey contributes $225,000 a day to the local economy, according to an MPAA fact sheet.

On its Web site, the New Jersey Motion Picture & TV Commission lists such feature projects as "You'll Know My Name," "Torture Chamber," "Spaghetti Park" and Magnolia Prods.' "Dickenson High" as currently shooting in the state. Among current TV series, it lists "Cake Boss," "Law & Order: SVU," "Lights Out" and recently canceled "Mercy."

NBC's "Mercy" studio in Secaucus, N.J., will be the location for Wednesday's hearing, called by Sen. Paul Sarlo, chairman of the state Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, who has been a proponent of the incentives. Supporters of the program expect the hearing will bring out more than 100 industry people in favor of the continuation of the program.

"SVU" star Tamara Tunie, "Mercy" producer Jim Bigwood, producer-director Roger Paradiso ("The Thomas Crowne Affair"), stunt coordinator Tim Gallin and unit production manager Carol Cuddy are listed as being among the witnesses for Wednesday's hearing.
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