LANSING — Lawmakers in Lansing today heard testimony on the possible revival of Michigan’s film industry tax incentives with a bipartisan group appearing to be open to the program’s return.
Supporters of the package said they’ve learned from the mistakes of the program’s previous iteration that ended in 2015
“In the old program, it drew taxpayer dollars right out of the general fund. This program absolutely does not do that,” said Rep. Jason Hoskins, D-Southfield, a sponsor of the bills.
The package would offer transferrable income tax credits to film, television and commercial producers in Michigan, covering up to 30% of certain production and staff costs.
Rep. John Roth, R-Interlochen, said the incentives would have positive impacts throughout other industries in the state, including in Northern Michigan.
“Yes, there’s actors that make big money. There’s also a ton of people behind them doing the production, the filming — everything that goes behind the scenes, the electricians. Those people are trying to make a living and stay in their own state,” he said.
Alexander Page, legislative action committee chair for the Michigan Film Industry Association, said the average film purchases services from 60 local vendors, benefitting businesses throughout the state.
“Most of these productions are required to film in states and countries that have these incentives. Without our program, Michigan simply can’t compete,” he said. “That puts us at a disadvantage against our neighbors like Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.”
Opponents of the bills said the policies would repeat the mistakes of past attempts to bring the film industry to Michigan. James Hohman, director of fiscal policy for Mackinac Center, said previous programs just hadn’t brought enough economic benefit to the state.
“When you look at both the creation and the dissolution of the program, it resulted in no change in Michigan’s overall job trends, which is something that lawmakers ought to care a lot about.”
According to the House Fiscal Agency, the program would provide around $2 billion in incentives over the next ten years. Supporters say it’s a route worth exploring as Michigan continues to compete with other states for new economic opportunities.
“The worst thing we can do now is just not try and allow Michigan the fall further behind the rest of the nation on this,” Hoskins said. “There are 40 other states and cities and territories that have similar incentive programs like this and they’re either expanding them or extending them.”