Modified film tax incentive bill advance in Nevada Senate committee

CARSON CITY — A bill that would offer tax credits to companies that film in Nevada won approval Thursday from a state Senate committee, but it was amended to make it a four-year pilot program and limit the incentives to $20 million per year.

Senate Bill 165, sponsored by state Sen. Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, would offer a variety of credits, including for employee salaries and benefits. It originally proposed offering $50 million a year in tax credits, which was then reduced to $35 million.

The program would also require an audit of film production by an in­dependent certified public accountant to ensure compliance with the bill before a certificate of eligibility for transferable tax credits is issued. It also would require annual reporting to the governor and Legislature.

Ford said the bill will also be amended to require companies that come to the state to acquire a state business license.

SB165 was amended and passed un­animously by the Senate Finance Committee although Republican members said they still have concerns and might seek additional changes to the measure before it is finalized.

Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, said the bill is a good start to establishing a film industry in Nevada that will create jobs and diversify the economy.

Ford got some high-powered support for his bill when actor Nicolas Cage, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and a host of film producers testified in support of the measure earlier this session.

“Movies can introduce more people around the globe to Nevada,” Cage said at the original Finance Committee hearing on the bill on May 7. “We are close to Hollywood. It would be very easy to bring folks here. If we are successful, how about Nevada being home to one of the premier movie studios in America?”

Carole Vilardo, president of the Nevada Taxpayers Association, spoke against the bill at the hearing, saying that tax incentives in Louisiana have not brought a positive return to that state.

But Goodman said she frequently is approached by producers who want to film in Nevada but instead go to states that offer incentives.

“The bottom line is determining whether we are willing to take the risk,” Ford added. “Nevada should be the top destination for films. We are letting other states pass us because we don’t offer film incentives.”

Louisiana offers a 30 percent tax credit. Forty-four movies and nine TV series were filmed in the state in 2011. But Gov. Bobby Jindal in March announced a plan to reduce the incentives offered to companies.

The Nevada Policy Research Institute, a Las Vegas-based conservative think tank, released a copy earlier this year of the Louisiana Legislature’s fiscal analysis of its film tax credit program. It found a $48 million net loss for the state in 2011 from the credit program.

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900.