Legislators ponder scrapping film-incentive program

Filmmakers are angry about a proposal before a Minnesota House committee to defund the state's film-incentive program and disband the Minnesota Film and Television Board.

The measure would save $1.8 million. Supporters of the rebate program say it's resulted in 155 projects being made in Minnesota over the last three years.

Bryant Simpson of the film technicians' union said that's remarkable, given how little the program costs now.

"Out of all the [film] incentives in the United States, this is one of the smallest," he said. "And it's still a success in Minnesota, even as it is really uncompetitive with the rest of the United States."

He said the proposal will hurt a growing industry.

"We are just now hitting our stride, and things are really going to take off," he said. "And now is when it's back up for debate again, and we have to prove ourselves once again." The proposed cut is part of a larger jobs bill. House Republicans want to use the state budget surplus to cut taxes and fund road and bridge projects, so they're adjusting spending in other parts of the budget to pay for other priorities.

Meanwhile, a proposal before the Senate would increase funding for the incentive program.

The so-called "Snowbate" program offers tax rebates for filmmaking in the state. It makes film production much more affordable and helps Minnesota compete with other states and Canada, which offer similar incentive programs.

Supporters say the Snowbate has generated almost $54 million in film and TV production over the past three years, and produced about 3,000 jobs.

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