New Mexico State Senate Votes to Preserve Film Tax Credit Program

Warner Bros.

Lawmakers move to cap funding at $50 million a year.

The seesaw battle to save the successful New Mexico film tax incentive program took a turn in favor of those who want to remain filmmaker friendly on Wednesday when the state Senate voted to preserve the 25% annual subsidy program but cap the funding at $50 million a year.

That would be higher than the 15% subsidy that Republican Gov. Susana Martinez had sought, but less than the $65.9 million the state paid out last year when 16 productions spent an estimated $202.5 million in the state, according to statistics kept by the state film commission.

Under the proposed subsidy plan, which is part of a larger budget bill being debated, the film commission could still spend $65 million in one year, but then it would have to take the additional $15 million out of the budget for the following year.

The subsidy plan must now go to a conference committee with the state House which approved a plan with a $45 million annual cap. That is the amount the governor has said she would approve, so even if the $50 million makes it through both chambers, she could still veto it because it exceeds what she said they should spend.

New Mexico has been among a handful of states, along with Michigan and Louisiana, that have used tax incentives in recent years to woo filmmakers to their state. The New Mexico program has been in place since it was backed by then Gov. Bill Richardson in 2003.

Among the productions in the state was Terminator Salvation. In the past year productions shot there have included The Avengers, Thor and the fourth season of the TV series In Plain Sight.

According to the film commission, the program produced a direct spend in the sate in 2005 of $62 million, in 2006 of $153.4 million, in 2008 of $274.5 million, in 2009 of $260.1 million. The way they figure it, the 2010 spend had a financial impact in the state of $607.5 million.

So far in 2011, they list an actual spend of $84.2 million, which had a financial impact of $252.6 million, from 14 qualified productions. So far in 2011, the state has approved $4.1 million in tax credits.