Something tells us Governor Charlie Baker isn’t going to like the latest figures related to the state’s tax credit program for film and TV projects.
They’re preliminary — in other words, unofficial — but numbers provided to us by the state Department of Revenue show that TV and movie projects received more than $61 million in tax credits in 2016, and more than a third of that total — $26.7 million — went to the producer of “Ghostbusters,” the big-budget feature starring Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, Kristen Wiig, and Kate McKinnon.
In the early days of his tenure, Baker proposed eliminating the controversial program, which was approved in 2006 to entice Hollywood to do more business in the Hub (and elsewhere in the state). The governor doesn’t believe the state derives sufficient economic benefit to justify the program, which provides movie and TV projects with a 25 percent rebate for production costs, payroll, and other expenses incurred while shooting. But the Massachusetts Production Coalition, which includes filmmakers, production companies, actors, and trade unions, among others, pushed back and the program was spared.
The $61 million for 2016 is not substantially higher than past years. Indeed, in 2014, eligible productions received $64.5 million in tax credits, according to the state Department of Revenue. Dozens of projects received tax credits last year, most of them in more modest amounts than “Ghostbusters.” Examples include commercials for toymaker Hasbro ($26,144), Carpet One ($18,429), and the apparel company Under Armour ($13,631.)
The nonprofit WGBH received hefty tax credits for its shows “Nova” ($434,923), “Antiques Roadshow” ($165,421), and “Frontline” ($650,114), while the TV shows “Wahlburgers” ($28,585) and “Chasing Life” ($92,929), and the films “The Finest Hours” ($14.4 million), “Central Intelligence” ($11.3 million), and Ben Affleck’s “Live by Night” ($1.1 million) also benefited.
State Senator James Eldridge, a Democrat from Acton who’s been a critic of the tax credit program, said he remains dubious of the overall economic value to the state.
“It’s one of the most generous in the country and I don’t think residents and taxpayers get much of a return on it, whether that’s jobs or money spent in the local community,” said Eldridge. “At a time when we’re cutting funding for the homeless, the environment, and education, why are we not looking at multiple corporate tax breaks, including the film tax credits?”
A spokesperson for the Massachusetts Production Coalition disagrees.
“Since its expansion in 2007, the Massachusetts film and television production tax incentive program has been a clear success,” said David Hartman. “It has made Massachusetts a leading filmmaking destination hosting over 175 major productions, creating thousands of jobs and supporting countless small businesses in cities and towns across the state.”
Likewise, Chuck Slavin, a local actor and SAG-AFTRA member who’s had parts in several made-in-Massachusetts movies, believes the tax credits have been good for the state.
“They’ve allowed me and other residents to keep the dream going here at home,” Slavin said. “We need to keep the Mass. film industry moving forward. It would be a shame to lose active workers, and its economic impact to other states.”