A rebate for movie and TV production companies that work in Idaho won’t get state funding in the next budget year, but lawmakers will allow donations, grants, and federal money to go into the fund. Idaho offers a credit of up to $500,000 for media productions in Idaho that hire Idahoans for at least 25 percent of their staff positions, but the state hasn’t put money in the fund since it was created in 2008.
The Idaho Senate unanimously approved expanding the pool of possible contributors to the fund. “This is a good economic development tool,” said Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, who sponsored the legislation. “It will hopefully help us create jobs in the next year.” The House approved the plan on a 69-1 vote Feb. 25. Rep. Lenore Hardy Barrett, R-Challis cast the lone no vote.
The Idaho Film Office, part of the Idaho Department of Commerce (IDOC), would run the rebate fund should it ever receive funding. Peg Owen, an IDOC marketing specialist, said the new legislation gives them more options to find money to entice movie and TV production. “It allows us to see if we can find private donors to support this fund,” she said. “It was intended to be a starter program. We just haven’t gotten started.” The economic downturn has prevented the state from putting tax revenues into the fund. IDOC requested $500,000 for the rebate fund in the current budget, but that was not approved by the governor. Owen said the state hasn’t looked into grants or donations yet, since the governor has yet to sign the change into law.
Owen compared the rebate to a coupon discount. Production companies could get a rebate of 20 percent of their expenses, up to $500,000. Other states, including Louisiana, don’t have caps on their film rebates, which can bring in larger Hollywood productions. Owen said Idaho’s program is intended to bring in smaller productions that would provide training and experience for Idahoans who want to work in TV and movies. The rebate could also apply to homegrown media productions. “We are losing Idaho-based productions to other states because we don’t have incentives,” she said. Some of Idaho’s sales tax exemptions could apply to film and TV productions.