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State Legislators Weigh Bill to Spend Millions on Film Incentives

Maryland may once again roll out the red carpet for Hollywood productions.

State legislators are weighing a bill that would dramatically raise the amount of rebates Maryland offers film crews from $1 million to $15 million.

That would make the state more competitive for silver screen productions, after losing film business to other states. Maryland has cut its incentives over the last few years from a high of $7 million in 2007 to $1 million this year.

Sponsored by Democratic Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer, Senate Bill 672 would raise the film incentives' budget to $15 million. Kasemeyer represents Baltimore and Howard Counties. Del. Melony G. Griffith, D-Prince George's County, has sponsored the corresponding House Bill.

The Senate bill passed the Budget and Taxation committee. House Bill 1148 is being heard by the Ways and Means committee. Under the incentive program, film crews that spend at least $500,000 receive up to a 25 percent rebate on their expenses incurred in the state.

The money would get Maryland back on a level playing field with other states, says Jed Dietz, director of the Maryland Film Festival.

"It would make a huge difference in this industry," Dietz says.

Film advocates decry losing out on "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." The $150 million budget movie starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett was set to shoot in Baltimore, but filmmakers rewrote the script and chose Louisiana, which has no cap on the amount of money it spends annually on film crews.

Though the state is staring at a massive deficit, growing the film incentive program will reward the state financially by bringing jobs and spending, Dietz says.

According to Sage Policy Group, film crews generated $158 million in economic impact in Maryland in fiscal year 2006 when funding was at its highest.

Writer: Julekha Dash
Sources: Maryland legislature; Jed Dietz, Maryland Film Festival

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