Film credit cash could come with strings attached

The Baltimore Sun

Maryland lawmakers tentatively set aside up to $18.5 million to reimburse the film industry next year, but they created a few ways to prevent the state from being bullied by Hollywood.

The House Ways and Means Committee voted Saturday afternoon to allow the state to deny handing out cash promised to production companies that later leave the state. Another new change encourages the state to enter multi-year deals, which would lessen the likelihood a company could collect millions one year and then leave Maryland the next.

Lawmakers added conditions to the pool of cash for film companies after the production company of the Netflix thriller “House of Cards” threatened to film its third season elsewhere if Maryland did not give them enough money.

This year, Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration offered the production only $4 million in tax credits after it gave them more $26 million over the previous two years.

Saturday, the Ways and Means committee decided the state could hand out $11 million in film tax credits. Lawmakers had already stashed another $7.5 million elsewhere in the budget that can be used to entice movie and TV productions here.

Both conditions added to the program are far weaker than a proposal approved by the House of Delegates to let the state use eminent domain to seize the assets of film companies. Lawmakers stripped that manuever from the final version of the budget.

The House of Delegates could vote on the final film tax proposal as soon as Saturday evening.

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