Tax credits for film and TV production are vital to N.J.’s economy

Dear Editor:
On Monday, Jan. 10, the New Jersey Senate and Assembly both decisively passed SB 690. This legislation reinstates and enhances New Jersey’s Film and Digital Media Rewards Program, which had been suspended last year by Governor Christie for fiscal year 2011 as part of a larger suspension and elimination of statewide tax credits. In less than forty-five days, Governor Christie will determine the fate of the legislation and New Jersey’s film and television production industry as a whole.
Most tax credit programs are in fact a cost to the state and its tax payers. But the Film and Television Rewards Program has an inverse effect. As data supports, the program brings New Jersey substantial benefits in terms of job creation, revenues and beyond. Prior to its suspension, New Jersey’s Film and Digital Media Rewards Program had a per project cap of 20 percent with an annual cap for film production of $10 million and $5 million for digital media. Despite being one of the weakest programs in the country, according to the Motion Picture Association of America, roughly 7,000 direct jobs were related to productions in New Jersey in 2008, an increase of nearly 1,000 jobs from 2006.
Additionally, New Jersey vendors received approximately $507 million in business from production companies, compared with $387 million in 2007. From 2000-2008, there were an average of 838 productions in New Jersey per year, with a high of 972 in 2007.
We have already begun to see the negative implications of the suspended Rewards Program. If the program is not reinstated, the impact will be far-reaching and New Jersey’s film and television production industry may never recover. Critics have derided film and television tax credits as an unnecessary handout to Hollywood. While there is compelling evidence of this theory in states like New Mexico, Louisiana and Michigan, California, New York and New Jersey are the exceptions. With its proximity to New York City, the world’s second largest film and television market, New Jersey has the opportunity to be a leader in the global media and entertainment Industry.
Producers focus on three things: cost, convenience and quality. New Jersey currently offers only two of those. Metro Studios is working on a multi-million dollar project that will bring between 600 – 1,200 permanent jobs to the state of New Jersey over the next five years. This project, along with New Jersey’s film and television production industry, is contingent on Governor Christie reinstating the Rewards Program. The people of New Jersey need to understand the Rewards Program is not a handout to Hollywood, rather a program that will create thousands of permanent jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in economic impact for the state. This is an opportunity for the constituents of New Jersey to speak up and ensure Governor Christie does not make a decision that will have harmful and lasting consequences for our great state.
Your urgent help is needed to make people aware. Thank you very much.

Zachary M. Schwitzky,
Executive Vice President, Metro Studios,

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