Film incentives still alive, amendment passes House vote

Published: Aug. 1, 2014 at 12:13 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 4, 2014 at 7:50 PM EDT
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RALEIGH, NC (WECT) - The state House approved an amendment Thursday proposed by Rep. Ted Davis (R-New Hanover) to extend the current film tax credit for one year.

The vote, which came after a rare floor speech by House Speaker Thom Tillis voicing his support for the amendment, passed by a vote of 77-36.

Davis proposed a one-year extension of current film tax credit incentive program, which expires at the end of 2014.

The proposal would cut the maximum credit from 25 percent to 22.5 percent, and caps the maximum refunded expenses at $40 million. It also proposes a study by the Program Evaluation Division to get what Davis called "an accurate, unbiased opinion of film tax credit incentives" program.

"To propose $10 million grant fund for six months is the death penalty. It is not enough to keep the current productions filming here," Davis said while introducing the amendment on the House floor. "Don't let this session go down in history as the one that killed the film industry in North Carolina."

Davis did have some support inside the chamber, and some critics.

Rep. Charles Jeter (R-Mecklenberg) was one who asked members to support the proposal.

"This is a program that is working," Jeter said.  "It needs to be tweaked. This is a program that creates jobs in our state."

Rep. Paul Stam (R-Wake) was one of the most vocal in opposition to Davis' proposal.

"Rep. Davis is trying to bring home the bacon to his district," Stam said in his floor speech. "Just because the job exists, doesn't mean it would not exist without the film credits. It is a negative return on investment. I can't ask the hard working people of my district to pay for these incentives."

Rep. Michael Speciale (R-Craven) was also critical of Davis amendment, and of the incentives going to the film industry.

"You know and I know that Hollywood wouldn't be here if they weren't making money," Speciale said during the debate.

Tillis was the last member to speak before Davis' closing comments. The Speaker recalled siding with former representative Danny McComas when talk came up in committee a few years ago about increasing and extending the film incentives.

"I think this is an important policy for us," Tillis said. "We are putting North Carolina cities and towns on the map, not just Wilmington. I think it is prudent to extend the credit, and get to work on the framework of a better program next year."

Johnny Griffin, Director of Wilmington Regional Film Commission, was pleased by the hard work of area Representatives.

"Another great step forward. Great work by Tillis, Davis, IIer, and Hamilton. Still work to be done to be successful," Griffin said.

According to Davis, "not only is this the hardest thing I've ever worked on in my life but I'm extremely passionate about it and I believe in the film industry and I believe in the people who work for it."

According to Wilmington area actor, J.W. Buriss, "so many jobs that have been saved thus far and we really have faith that it will go through. I just cannot thank Ted Davis enough. "

SB 763 which includes Davis' amendment, needs a third vote in the NC House before moving to the Senate. It must be approved in that chamber before going to the Governor's office.

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