- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 9, 2014

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - An incentives program used to entice filmmaking to the state would change and be extended by four years under a bill sent Tuesday to Gov. Rick Snyder, a move supporters said would keep Michigan current with what other states are doing to lure Hollywood.

Funding for the Michigan Film Office is currently scheduled to end in 2017, but would continue until late 2021 under the bill given final approval by the Republican-controlled Senate on a 33-4 vote. However, nothing prevents legislators from scaling back the $50 million-a-year program in the annual budget process.

Michigan now covers 27 percent of qualified expenditures on movies and other productions. Under the changes, it would pay 25 percent along with another 3 percent of spending at a permanent in-state studio or 10 percent of expenditures at an in-state post-production facility.

The bill would require filmmakers to have higher ratios of Michigan workers to qualify for incentives, though a waiver could be sought if not enough qualified employees were available. Subsidization of a movie’s “above-the-line” personnel, such as the director and actors, would be capped at 30 percent.

The measure also would lift a $2 million-per-employee cap on salaries counted as reimbursable expenditures, requiring that taxes be paid on royalties and other residual income earned on films made here. Currently, TV shows can get subsidies for no more than two straight seasons, but the bill would let them apply for more, and they would get preference for future funding.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, the legislation’s sponsor, said his goal is to permanently grow Michigan’s production workforce.

Hollywood, he said, “loves the people that we have here. We need to build more careers rather than just jobs,” said the Monroe Republican, whose impending departure because of term limits could be a blow to other advocates of the incentives.

The state Chamber of Commerce and other critics have said the credits given to Hollywood are a “boondoggle.” The incentives were among the country’s most lucrative when Michigan initially began awarding them in 2008 under then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm, but were scaled back by Snyder in 2011.

“These film subsidies are the worst of corporate welfare. We are sending a large amount of money out of the state,” said Rep. Tom McMillin, a Rochester Hills Republican who opposed the bill when it easily cleared the GOP-led House last week. “It could be used for roads, it could be used for schools, it could be used to keep the money in the pockets of our citizens.”

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Online:

Senate Bill 1103: https://1.usa.gov/1yM9Jfj

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Follow David Eggert at https://twitter.com/DavidEggert00


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