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Bill expanding incentives for film, digital media projects gets Senate approval

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A bill that would expand the state's incentive offerings for film and digital media projects has passed the state Senate and is now headed to an Assembly committee.

Known as the “Garden State Film and Digital Media Jobs Act,” the bill would increase the annual program cap from $10 million to $50 million for film production tax credits and double the tax-credit cap for digital media productions from $5 million to $10 million. The legislation also ups the threshold on credit-eligible production expenses from 20 percent to 22 percent if purchases are made at stores and businesses within one of New Jersey’s Urban Enterprise Zones.

“Our most important priority is job creation, but we have been losing jobs in the film industry to New York and other states because we haven’t been competitive with tax incentives,” state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), one of the bill’s sponsors, said. “Reauthorizing an expanded version of the program will attract jobs and generate economic activity. Industry executives say that incentives are the top priority in deciding where to locate.”

Companies seeking the tax credits also would be required to enter into a public-private partnership with a state-based college or university and offer on-the-job training to students.

In 2011, Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a similar bill that made its way to his desk.

“The motion picture industry is good for the state,” state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck), another of the bill’s sponsors, said. “We want movies and TV shows to be filmed and produced here. They offer economic, cultural and educational benefits. They make use of the talents of creative professionals and can provide valuable publicity for New Jersey.”

Daryn Iwicki, state director for Americans for Prosperity, sent a letter to Senate members prior to Thursday’s vote, urging them to vote against the bill. Iwicki says that similar measures have played out in other states and resulted in a “hit to taxpayers.”

“Big Hollywood shouldn’t be getting a handout when we can’t even afford to pay our bills or make the required payments to our pension system,” Iwicki said. “Whoopi Goldberg and Steve Spielberg don’t need tax breaks to make a film here. The root of the problem isn’t that New Jersey isn’t offering the next best deal. The problem is our tax climate is killing us and New Jersey families and small businesses are getting hammered every day.”

The bill will now head to the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee for consideration.

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Andrew George

Andrew George

Andrew George covers the Statehouse from NJBIZ's Trenton bureau. Born and raised in N.J., Andrew has also spent time as a reporter in D.C., Texas and Pa. His email is andrewg@njbiz.com and he is @AndrGeorge on Twitter.

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