Ideas brewing to eliminate $50 million cap on subsidies
Sen. Timothy Keller, D-Albuquerque, said Thursday that informal discussions were under way about bills that would eliminate the $50 million annual limit on subsidies.
Keller said one idea could be to create separate rebate categories -- one for TV and the other for movies.
Television, he said, brings series that translate to more consistent work and bigger paydays for host cities.
One example is "Breaking Bad," the AMC series set in Albuquerque. It has had a five-year run.
Keller, right, said television series can claim the lion's share of the available $50 million yearly subsidy, reducing what is left for movies.
It means a bill or bills to change or eliminate the cap on rebates could be in the pipeline.
Moviemakers and television producers receive a 25 percent return on qualified production expenses in New Mexico. So a filmmaker with $10 million in expenses gets back $2.5 million from the state treasury.
Gov. Susana Martinez in 2011 wanted to cut the movie subsidy to 15 percent. Instead, a compromise with legislators kept the rebate at 25 percent, but total annual payouts to moviemakers and TV series were restricted to $50 million.
Martinez said she liked the cap because the state could budget for it, not be surprised by a mammoth payout to filmmakers.
Former Rep. Al Park filed a bill last year to repeal the cap. His point was that, if movies and TV productions really were creating thousands of jobs and pouring money into New Mexico's economy, incentives for production companies should not be restricted.
But the question of how good -- or bad -- movies subsidies are for the state remains unanswered.
Legislation requiring a breakdown of the economic pluses and minuses of subsidizing filmmakers still has not been completed.
Keller in 2011 sponsored a successful bill requiring a comprehensive analysis of the rebate program. But Martinez's administration never launched the review.
Not all lawmakers believe that subsidizing movies and TV series is smart public policy. Some contend it drains money from the state treasury that could be going to roads, schools and other public projects.
The Keller bill, which might have ended the debate about movie rebates with an accurate answer, remains promising but ignored.