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Lawmakers push for tax breaks for film productions in Missouri

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)

Several state representatives have proposed a reboot of Missouri's film tax incentive program.

The state ended its incentive program in 2013. The last film to receive a tax break from the state was "Gone Girl." The 21st Century Fox film was shot largely in Cape Girardeau.

Rep. Kathy Swan, a Republican from Cape Girardeau said the production companies' spending coupled with tourism has brought millions to the local economy.

"It's not just about the dollars that are spent when (production companies) come here," Swan said. "It's about the recognition that it brings our state."

Swan proposed in a bill that would bring the incentive program back. If passed, production companies could receive a tax credit of up to 25 percent of all in-state expenses. The proposal incentivizes companies to film a majority of each film in Missouri.

The annual cap for the program would be $4.5 million.

Rep. Vic Allred of Parkville also filed a bill to bring back the tax breaks.

Advocates for the bill say Missouri has missed out on more than $100 million in revenue since 2013 because it is not attracting large studio productions.

The Netflix series "Ozark," which takes place at Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks, is largely shot in Georgia. Georgia, dubbed the Hollywood of the South, has the largest tax incentive program in the nation. The state doled out nearly $670 million in tax breaks in 2016 to draw in major productions.

Tim Jacobsen, the director of the Lake of the Ozark's Convention & Visitor's Bureau, said he's accompanied Netflix when they've shot at the lake.

The company brought a large crew, Jacobsen said, and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars while they were there. Since the show debuted, tourists have visited the lake and found reasons to stay, he said.

Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe says he supports tax credits but they must be capped. Watch an extended interview with him below.

Missouri Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe on a proposal to reboot the tax credit program for production companies filming in the Show-Me state.

"We've brought international travel writers ... that came because of the show, but when they get here and they see all the different activities in the Ozarks, that's what they write about," Jacobsen said.

Georgia, where most of "Ozark" is shot, has no limit on the tax credits it can give to production companies.

"The money they spent here is not nearly what they spend in Georgia," Jacobsen said. "(Production companies) get reimbursed for those tax credits in Georgia that they don't here."

Officials in Georgia, however, are reevaluating the tax credit program after a report by the state's Department of Audits and Accounts.

The report found that the incentives had generated less revenue and fewer jobs than originally estimated.

While the economic activity resulting from the credit generates revenue (e.g., personal income taxes, sales tax on purchases)," the audit found, "the additional revenue is not sufficient to offset the credit."

Georgia spent $667 million in tax incentives for film production companies in 2016. The state, according to the audit, lost about $602 million as a result.

"By offering the tax credit, the state has less income tax revenue to spend on other policy areas," such as health care and education, the report said.

Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe said he supports Swan's proposal to reboot the program partially because it comes with an annual spending limit of $4.5 million.

"If we’re going to restart the program, we’d start with a reasonable amount with a cap so it doesn’t get out of control. Because look, (the) government’s not really good at anything, in my opinion," Kehoe said. "Certainly, having a program with no cap is a really bad idea."

Missouri Politics / News / Politics / Top Stories

Barry Mangold

Barry Mangold reports for ABC 17 News on weekday evenings and anchors weekend evening broadcasts.

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