Bill reinstates tax incentives for Montana filmmaking

By Cole Grant/UM Legislative News Service

HELENA – A bill that would reinstate tax incentives for filmmakers shooting in Montana isn’t dying without a fight.

House Bill 602 would give production companies a tax credit for hiring Montanans, and for certain expenses, like food and lodging.

The bill was resurrected after being tabled in the House Taxation Committee. It then died on a vote on the House floor only to be reconsidered and passed on a preliminary vote Thursday 53-to-47. It now needs a final vote in the House.

Rep. Bridget Smith, D-Wolf Point, said during the first House debate that it would help Montana businesses thrive.

“It’s like a grocery store coupon. It encourages you to enter the store, even if you don’t buy the ten cans of soup, you bought the cookies,” Smith said.

Rep. Alan Redfield, R-Livingston, opposed the bill during Thursday’s floor debate.

“This is tax credit for millionaires from Hollywood,” Redfield said.

The bill would reenact the Big Sky on the Big Screen Act, which ended at the beginning of 2015. If passed, the act would last about a decade.

For the employee tax credit, a company could apply for a 19 percent tax credit on the first $50,000 a Montana resident earns. If they’re in an underserved county (a county is considered underserved in the bill if 14 percent or more of all residents are in federal poverty), it would be a 24 percent credit.

The expenses credit would be 14 percent, and would include food and lodging, location fees, equipment rentals, lumber and construction materials, and supplies and materials that will be used in the production.

Filmmakers would have to apply to get the tax credit, and the application fee would be $500.

Since it’s a revenue bill, it’s facing a Friday deadline to move over to the Senate.

As of 2016, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 37 states had film incentive programs.

Cole Grant is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.