Call it the “Breaking Bad Bill.”
In a bill meant to spur more production of television series in New Mexico, Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque is proposing bigger film-incentive rebates for television series.
“TV series are good for job creation and sustained economic growth,” Maestas told reporters Monday. “TV series that are successful stay around for several years. Movies come and go.” Longer series mean more job security for New Mexico crews, Maestas said.
The legislator said his House Bill 379 is meant to attract more series like AMC’s critically acclaimed Breaking Bad and USA Network’s In Plain Sight. Both series, shot primarily in Albuquerque, lasted five seasons.
HB 379 also would allow the state to carry forward unused film tax credit production funds from previous years, if the state spent less than the current $50 million annual cap. For example, if the state spent only $40 million on the rebates one year, the next year the cap would go up to $60 million.
The bill appears to have legs. One good sign for it was that it only received one committee assignment in the House, to the House Taxation and Revenue Committee.
And Gov. Susana Martinez, who hasn’t been one of the biggest backers of the film incentive program in the past, supports at least part of the bill.
“The governor fully supports carrying over unused film incentives from one year to the next,” Martínez’ spokesman, Enrique Knell, said Monday. “It allows us to maximize use of the fund while providing budget certainty.”
But, Martinez hasn’t committed to support the other part of the legislation. “We haven’t seen the bill yet, and haven’t reviewed the proposal to increase the rebate level to 30 percent,” Knell said. “That’s something we will have to look at.”
Martinez in 2011 spent much of her first legislative session criticizing the film incentive program. She frequently made statements like, “I’m not willing to give Hollywood a 25 percent subsidy on the backs of our kids.” However, since the Legislature agreed to the cap on the program that year, she has warmed up more to the film industry.
The final eight episodes of Breaking Bad, the story of an Albuquerque high-school science teacher turned methamphetamine producer, will be aired later this year.
Another series, being shot in Las Vegas, N.M., is the A&E network’s Longmire, a crime drama that is in its second season.
Jon Hendry, business agent for the local film technician’s union, said there are currently four series — all for network television — that are shooting or plan to begin production in the state.
He said HB 379 would help keep those productions in New Mexico if the shows get picked up by networks.
The state of California, Hendry said, has a “Come Back to California” program that provides a 5 percent rebate to lure back producers of television series that shoot pilots in other states. “That’s what happened with Vegas,” Hendry said, referring to a CBS show that filmed its pilot in Las Vegas, N.M., and other locales in the state but ended up moving production to Los Angeles for subsequent episodes.
Maestas’ bill would “nullify” the California incentive, Hendry said. Plus, he said, it would put New Mexico on a par with Louisiana and other states that offer a 30 percent rebate.
Under current law, the state’s film incentive program offers a 25 percent rebate to film companies for most in-state expenditures. However, since 2011, the rebates can be paid out over just three years. That year the state imposed a $50 million cap per year on rebate payouts.
Maestas’ bill would increase the rebate to 30 percent for a television series that shot at least six episodes in a single season in the state or spent at least $500,000 on constructing sets.
The bill originally was scheduled to be heard Monday (Feb. 4) by the tax committee in the House. However, Maestas said he is in process of tweaking the legislation.
“We want something that can pass and that will be signed,” he said. “This will send a strong message to the film industry that we are committed to the [incentive] program,” Maestas added.
The committee is expected to hear the bill on Wednesday (Feb. 6), Maestas said.