By Lyle Kendrick, CAPITAL NEWS SERVICE
The Maryland legislature is weighing whether film and television productions like Netflix’s popular House of Cards should be dealt additional tax credits to entice them to keep shooting in the state.
Supporters of the bill said the measure would bring more jobs to Maryland and make the state more attractive for future movie and television filming.
Steve Lafayette is one of the people that benefited from tax incentives. An audio worker for the first season of HBO’s Veep, Lafayette moved to Maryland from Chicago before the show’s first season.
He said that since Veep aired, he’s seen more movies and television shows being filmed in Maryland, including House of Cards starring Kevin Spacey.
“There was a bit of a snowball effect,” Lafayette said, adding that much of the newly available work is because of tax credits to film production companies.
The proposed bill would increase the amount of income tax credits the Department of Business and Economic Development can award to film production companies from $7.5 million to $18.5 million during the next fiscal year.
The Senate already passed the bill and a House committee held a hearing on the matter Wednesday, and is expected to vote later this week.
Sen. Edward Kasemeyer, D-Baltimore, testified in support of the bill and said while Maryland manufacturing has not experienced significant growth in recent years, there are opportunities in the film industry.
“It’s an industry, I think, that’s creating a lot of activity,” he said.
In order for a company to qualify for a tax credit, it must spend more than $500,000 in the state and the money cannot go towards an individual whose salary exceeds that.
Debbie Dorsey, director of the Baltimore Film Office, said the bill’s failure would economically harm the state.
“It would really send a message that Maryland isn’t open for business,” she said.
Media Rights Capital, which produces House of Cards, sent a letter to Gov. Martin O’Malley warning that it would look at other states for potential filming if the state did not increase tax credits for film production.
Supporters of the bill said increased tax incentives would help workers across a wide range of industries.
David O’Ferrall, a business agent with Mid-Atlantic Studio Mechanics, said television series like House of Cards and Veep use local vendors and Maryland workers for jobs like lumber and paint work for set decorations.
“It means work for all the peripheral businesses,” he said.
Dorsey said the tourism industry also benefits because visitors want to see where movies like Runaway Bride and Wedding Crashers were shot in Maryland.
Matt Craven, a technician who worked on Veep and House of Cards, said that when Maryland did not have a significant tax incentive, he struggled to find jobs in the film industry and did events work.
"It’s better when there’s tax incentives," he said.
According to the Department of Business and Economic Development, Veep is projected to have received $22.8 million and House of Cards is projected to have received $30.9 million between fiscal years 2012 and 2016. That total was only $1.5 million for other projects.
O’Ferrall said that in addition to the state’s tax incentives, Maryland is attractive for filmmakers because there is a strong acting and production base and the state is so close to a diverse locations, including Washington and New York.
“We can be anywhere,” he said.
One Marylander, Jacqueline Adamson, who lives in Lanham, who has previously testified against the bill, said she does not want increased tax incentives because she thinks the money could be better spent elsewhere.
“Maryland cannot afford the red carpet,” she said Wednesday before the hearing.
But Lafayette said he would support an unlimited cap because it could attract more television series to the state and give more stability to workers like him.
“If it’s only a limited amount, you can only benefit so many shows,” he said.