Runaway legislation introduced in D.C.

Measure would provide wage-based tax credit

WASHINGTON — A coalition of key pols in the House of Representatives Tuesday introduced much-anticipated legislation that would give producers a financial incentive to film Stateside.

Signing onto the runaway production bill were Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Calif.), ranking member on the Intellectual Property Subcommittee; Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.), chairman of the powerful Rules Committee; and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), ranking member on the equally pivotal Ways & Means Committee. Another dozen solons are co-sponsors.

Lawmakers hope the measure, which would provide a wage-based tax credit, will even the playing field when it comes to the expense of production in the U.S. vs. production in Canada and elsewhere.

“Unfortunately, there has been an alarming trend in runaway production because other countries are providing unfair subsidies and incentives to lure production out of America,” Dreier said.

The runaway production legislation has been endorsed by a broad coalition in Hollywood, including the Directors Guild of America, the Producers Guild of America, the Screen Actors Guild, the Writers Guild of America and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

“This is not about big-name stars,” Berman said. “It’s about the production assistants, art directors, local managers and truck drivers — the below the line employees who can’t find work because productions are fleeing to other countries.”

Legislation crafted by Berman is virtually identical to a bill introduced in the Senate earlier this year.

The measures would offer the wage-based tax credit to productions shot in the U.S. with budgets between $200,000 and $10 million.

Credit would be calculated at 25% for the first $25,000 in wages per employee and 35% in low-income areas. It would cover films, network TV, cable, miniseries, episodic series and telepics.

The U.S. is losing as much as $10 billion a year due to runaway production, according to the most recent figures compiled by the Dept. of Commerce.

Wage-based tax credits remain fairly controversial on Capitol Hill, however. And with the war on terrorism well under way, no one is willing to predict whether the runaway production legislation will even get a hearing this fall.

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