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  • Writer's pictureStaff @ LT&C

Louisiana Lawmakers Debate Extending Motion Picture Tax Credit Program

In Louisiana, also known as “Hollywood South,” a debate has arisen over a motion picture tax credit program that has been attracting movie producers and film companies to the state for the past decade. Lawmakers have advanced a bill that would extend the program by another decade, but opponents argue that it is time for the incentive program to expire. They criticize the program for returning only a fraction of the money spent back to the state treasury, which could be better spent in financially struggling sectors of the state budget, such as education, infrastructure, and law enforcement positions.

Republican Rep. Richard Nelson argued during the House floor debate that, “At the end of the day, we have much more significant things that we can spend our money on… I invite you to tell me which of these movies (filmed in Louisiana) is worth more than the bridge in your district, the school in your district or paying your police.” Despite these objections, the bill was passed in the state House by a vote of 74-24 and is now advancing to the Senate. The legislation proposes to allocate $150 million a year to film tax breaks and would extend the motion picture tax credit program, which is set to expire in two years, until 2035.

Republican House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, who sponsored the bill, praised the program for its role in the state’s dramatic film industry growth that he says has brought money and jobs to the state. He argued that the program is helping a lot of local people and the state as a whole.

However, opponents repeatedly questioned the return on investment and cited a report by the Louisiana Economic Development agency, which found that for every dollar spent on the tax credit program, Louisiana recoups only about 23 cents back. “It is a terrible, terrible, return,” said Nelson, who is running for governor this year.

In contrast, Democratic New Orleans Rep. Mandie Landry, whose city is the epicenter of Louisiana’s film industry, disagreed with the report’s findings. She argued that the study does not account for other benefits of the industry, such as the money spent in the state for supplies to create sets and the locals employed for jobs, such as caterers, while filming occurs.

Furthermore, Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser has put out a study that shows that 53% of visitors said something they saw about Louisiana in movies or on TV motivated their trip to the state. This suggests that the motion picture tax credit program may be contributing to Louisiana’s tourism industry and the economy as a whole.

Over the last decade, the film tax break has drawn controversy, especially in years when Louisiana grappled with repeated budget shortfalls and had to cut spending in areas such as health care and education. In 2021, a similar bill to extend the program was filed but failed in the House. The current bill’s fate in the Senate remains uncertain, but the debate over the program’s effectiveness will likely continue.



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