HARRISBURG, April 17, 2013 – Led by Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton) and Rep. Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster), the Senate and House Democratic Policy committees today held a joint hearing to discuss Pennsylvania’s film tax credit program and its affect on the state’s film and television industry.

“Jobs and economic development should be this legislature’s top priority,” said Boscola, who chairs the Senate Democratic Policy Committee. “When we help businesses expand, hire more workers and invest in our economy, many of our funding and budget challenges will take care of themselves. This is why I will continue to fight for economic development programs with proven track records. The state’s film tax credit is a glowing example of one of these programs.”

The tax credit program, which provides a 25 percent tax credit to film company’s qualifying expenditures, has helped Pennsylvania’s film office attract major motion picture and television projects. This effort has directly generated over 18,000 jobs and $739 million dollars in wages.

“The legislature needs to focus on putting our state’s resources where we can garner the greatest return,” House Policy Committee Democratic Chair, Mike Sturla said. “Pennsylvania’s Film Tax Credit generates a host of indirect investments in communities across the commonwealth, and we need to ensure the tax credit remains competitive with other states.”

Since its inception in 2004, the program has helped spur nearly $2 billion in economic activity in Pennsylvania. Currently, the amount of credits are capped at $60 million each fiscal year. However, the program is allowed to provide multi-year credits using funds from future fiscal years.

To be approved for a tax credit, projects must spend 60 percent of their budget in Pennsylvania.

Democrats claim the film tax credit program could accomplish even more if state government were willing to expand the amount of available credit dollars and make a multi-year commitment to the program.

Pennsylvania film industry advocates who testified discussed the impact of the film industry in Pennsylvania and what it could mean to the state’s job creation and economic development if the film tax credit program was expanded.

“In a nation that has seen one of the most serious economic downturns in history and with rampant unemployment and almost daily news of closing businesses; the film industry in Pennsylvania is one of the few growth industries,” Dawn Kezzer, director of the Pittsburgh Film Office said. “When the film industry has proven for six years that Pennsylvania is one of their first choices for film production, we need to respond with a resounding yes. The biggest way of doing that is to eliminate the cap on the film tax credit and bring an immediate influx of hundreds of millions of dollars a year into the state.”

Union officials representing actors, performers and broadcasters in Pennsylvania and the surrounding regions discussed the impact on jobs and revenue for actors, companies and other industries that support the film productions in the state.

“In 2012, approximately 350 SAG/AFTRA actors worked on a production with a film tax credit in Pennsylvania and were paid wages at or around $4 million, doubling the earnings of actors in 2008,” Stephen Leshinski, Philadelphia region executive director of SAG/AFTRA said. “Creating a competitive tax incentive program in Pennsylvania without the damaging impact of unrealistic limits and caps will be good not only for our members, but for Pennsylvania as well.”

Leshinski added that due to television and film productions – such as the current David O. Russell film and the “Hatfields & McCoys” television pilot – passing on Pennsylvania due to lack of tax credits, approximately 200-300 actors, from those two productions alone, are out of a job.

Also testifying at the hearing were:

  • Nick Paleologos – executive director, NJ State Arts Coulcil
  • Sharon Pinkenson – executive director, Greater Philadelphia
  • Russ Nissen – Film Incentives director, Ease Entertainment
  • Jeff Rotwitt – owner, Sun Center Studios
  • Robin Ross – PA Film Industry Association (PaFIA)
  • Brian O’Leary – senior vice president and tax counsel, NBC Universal
  • John Fundus – vice president, IATSE Local 52
  • Mike Matesic – president, IATSE Local 489, Pittsburgh
  • Frank Conforti – member and coordinator, Teamsters Local 249, Pittsburgh
  • Terry Casaletta – business agent, Teamsters Local 817
  • Gregory Cavoli – general manager, Enterprise Holdings Central Pennsylvania
  • Mike Fahner – area sales leader, Marriott International
  • Troy Bystrom, chairman, Pocono Film Commission