Michigan House Committee Looks to End State Film Incentives

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By Ray Wilbur
Listen Up, Lansing

The Michigan Film Office, which helped bring films like “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” to East Lansing, is fighting to keep their incentive program after the Michigan House of Representatives Tax Policy Committee voted to end the program earlier this March.

The incentive program was extended until 2021 last year, but state Rep. Dan Lauwers, R-Brockway, wants the program ended by the beginning of the next fiscal year.

“The incentive program just isn’t fiscally responsible right now for taxpayers and the state,” Lauwers said.

The Michigan Film Office was created in 1979, and meant to assist and attract incoming production companies to boost Michigan’s economy, according to its website.

A dramatic shift in in Michigan’s automobile industry in 2008 left many factory and commercial buildings open to be transformed into sound stages and production facilities, and created a need for in-state money, which paved the way for the Michigan Film Office incentive program, director of the Michigan Film Office Jenell Leonard said.

Although the film credits incentive program has brought jobs and revenues to Michigan, it has been controversial since its beginning in 2008, with rebate rates as high as 42 percent, Michigan Film Office Public Relations Manager Michelle Grinnell said.

In 2014, about 27 projects were approved by the Michigan Film office with a total state expenditure of $101,010,980 and refunded $36,223,402 in tax credits, which helped create almost 1,300 full-time job positions, according to Michigan Film Office reports.

Grinnell said that the film office would work diligently to bring money and jobs to Michigan no matter how much funding they receive over the next years.

After Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder took office in 2011, he changed the rebates and worked to phase them out completely. The credits have since been capped at either $25 million or $50 million since 2011, Grinnell said.

“No matter what happens to the incentive program, we will continue to work hard to bring productions to Michigan and put the money we spend back into the taxpayers pocket,” Leonard said.

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