Lawmaker seeks auditor analysis of film, TV tax credits
Is it smart public policy for taxpayers to subsidize movies and TV shows that are shot in New Mexico?
Opinions abound. Emotions run high. Hard data is missing.
State Sen. Timothy Keller, right, in 2011 tried to rectify that problem. Keller, D-Albuquerque, sponsored a successful bill calling for an economic analysis of the state's tax credits for moviemakers and TV executives.
But Gov. Susana Martinez's administration has failed to do the work, leaving the public in the dark about the movies.
Now freshman state Rep. Bill McCamley has revived Keller's bill -- with a twist.
McCamley, below, proposes to allocate $50,000 to the state auditor, who would crunch all the numbers on movie and TV projects.
McCamley, D-Las Cruces, is making a smart move.
The state spends up to $50 million a year to subsidize moviemakers and television producers. Allocating $50,000 to test whether this policy is as lucrative for the state as proponents say makes good sense.
Former state Rep. Dennis Kintigh, R-Roswell, was a fierce critic of movie and TV program. He said it actually hurt the state economy because the job benefits were exaggerated.
For instance, if a set designer works four months a year on three different movies in New Mexico, is that counted as one part-time job or three jobs? Kintigh said there was anecdotal evidence that movies and TV series were good for the economy but little statistical data to back up the claims.
Currently, movies and TV shows that shoot in New Mexico receive a 25 percent rebate on qualified production expenses. A $20 million project brings a rebate of $5 million to the filmmaker or TV honcho.
State Rep. Antonio Maestas, D-Albuquerque, wants to raise the TV rebate to 30 percent, saying long-running series such as "Breaking Bad" do more for the state's economy than individual movies.
McCamley's bill could test that theory.
We say could because, even if McCamley's proposal receives legislative approval, Martinez could veto it.
She has dragged her heels on the movie and TV review that was mandated by law two years ago. If McCamley's bill clears the House of Representatives and the Senate, Martinez's administration may finally get around to doing the work, saving face if not money.
McCamley's bill is HB 490.