Film industry officials hope new governor boosts business
Apr. 14, 2018
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Officials in New Mexico's film and television industry say a new governor may help boost business for film production in the state.
Gubernatorial hopefuls seeking to succeed term-limited Gov. Susana Martinez say some potentially consequential tweaks to the state's film and television tax incentive program could round out this increasingly prominent piece of the state economy, the Santa Fe New Mexican reports .
Some candidates are proposing removing or raising the payout cap for productions some view as an impediment to future growth.
"Georgia stole our business," said Democratic U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor. "Fairly and squarely. They invested in schools; they invested in studios; they invested in an entire infrastructure. We should be doing the same."
The next governor will inherit a film economy that has drawn more in-state direct spending from film and TV productions each year since 2014, topping out at $505 million last fiscal year.
Martinez, who came into office talking tough about reining in the incentive program, saw production activity fall off as her term began, with previously skyrocketing spending numbers tumbling to a low of $162 million in 2014.
But the Republican governor changed her tune, signing into law the 2013 "Breaking Bad bill." The legislation, which derived its name from the Emmy-winning TV drama that filmed primarily in Albuquerque during its five seasons, enhanced incentives for television productions and celebrated industry spending at annual news conferences.
U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, the only Republican in the governor's race and thus his party's presumptive nominee, emphasized a "fiscally responsible and sustainable" approach to the film business, which he said must be made more "geographically diverse, more economically sustainable and more permanent."
State Sen. Joe Cervantes of Las Cruces, a candidate in the Democratic primary, said it is essential that the state meet obligations in a timely way and beef up its internal film-focused infrastructure.
Jeff Apodaca, a former media executive and another Democratic candidate, will address those rebates with haste, he said through a spokesman.
"New productions have slowed because of Gov. Martinez holding back payments," said Peter DeBenedittis, communication director for Apodaca. "Paying this off immediately will be a priority."
The cap's continued existence, despite Martinez's friendlier posture to the industry, remains cause for consternation for producers who want more certainty on when they'd get their rebates from the state, said Eric Witt, who leads the joint city-county Santa Fe Film Office.
"But as important is re-establishing an affirmative and aggressive support for the business," Witt said. "We could actually return to the trajectory we were originally on."
In Georgia, he pointed out, the film industry draws billions of dollars in direct spending — $2.7 billion in the most recently concluded fiscal year, according to state figures.
Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.santafenewmexican.com