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N.H. House panel recommends rejecting tax breaks for film, TV productions

Nearly all states offer tax breaks to attract movie and television productions, but New Hampshire shouldn’t become one of them, a House panel recommended yesterday.

On a 17-2 vote, the Ways and Means Committee recommended the full House kill a bill that would create a credit against the state’s Business Profits Tax, or BPT, for film productions.

Forty-five states offer motion picture incentives such as tax credits, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Only Delaware, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Dakota do not.

But while such programs exploded in popularity before 2010, the economic downturn prompted many states to take a second look at their policies, and some have since pulled back, said Rep. Frank Davis, a Pembroke Democrat.

Rep. Patrick Abrami, a Stratham Republican, said he’s wary of the whole concept.

“To me, this is kind of like extortion, like being held up. ‘We won’t make a movie here because you’re not paying us.’ . . . I don’t really like that, just in general terms,” Abrami said. “And then who are we subsidizing? Millionaire actors?”

The tax credit bill was introduced this year by Rep. Jeffrey Goley, a Manchester Democrat, and retained by the House Ways and Means Committee for additional work over the summer and into the fall.

The bill would create a credit against the BPT for up to 25 percent of payroll plus up to 25 percent of production costs for a film or television project. There’s no annual cap and the credits would be transferrable, allowing the filmmaker to sell them to another company.

The New Hampshire Production Coalition, an industry group, pushed for the legislation, and the New Hampshire Film and Television Office said it would help the state compete with Massachusetts and other neighbors for film and TV productions.

But the bill found little support on the committee yesterday, though Republican Reps. Laurie Sanborn of Bedford and Frank Sapareto of Derry argued it deserved further study.

“I understand that there is a number of real problems with this bill, particularly the transferability issue, and they were not willing to budge on that,” Sanborn said. “But any time that we can spur economic activity, I think it’s something we should take a look at.”

The bill will go to the floor in January. If the Democratic-controlled House rejects the committee’s recommendation and passes it anyway, it will go to the Republican-controlled Senate.

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or bleubsdorf@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)

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