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New bill would give tax break to AZ film production

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

The television and film industry is a multi-billion dollar industry, but many studios do not consider Arizona as a place to film because of its lack of film tax incentives.

"There are 30 plus states all across the country that have incentives to bring these type of productions to their states and invigorate the economy," said Chris LaMont, the founder of the Phoenix Film Festival and supporter of Senate Bill 1242.

"We don't have anything like that. We want a level playing field," he continued.

SB 1242, if passed, would give a 20 percent tax break to any multimedia production that satisfies certain requirements. Right now, many studios decide to shoot in neighboring New Mexico when they are looking for a Southwest setting, since that state offers tax incentives.

"It's a jobs bill for us," LaMont said.

The bill sets aside $70 million in tax credits for production companies to film in Arizona. However, pornographic or inappropriate films would not be permitted.

"We don't want obscene films to be shot here. Anything that is going to receive a tax credit is something we want to check," LaMont said.

In order to make sure the production meets Arizona guidelines, the legislation requires studios to submit a list of actors, the director and a script or synopsis of what will be shot. Additionally, the production must spend $250,000 in state to be eligible for the credit. The most a production could receive in tax breaks would be $15 million. That means they would have to spend $300 million in Arizona.

"We just want to see production come here because people want to film here in Arizona," LaMont said.

"People would rather film here in Arizona rather than go to New Mexico. But it's dollars and cents that really runs show business," he continued.

According to CBS 5 News research, New Mexico sets aside $50 million a year for tax breaks. It gives eligible productions a 25 percent tax break. California sets aside $100 million at 25 percent. New York rings in at the top of the list with $410 million in tax breaks at 30 percent.

Opponents point out the state is still struggling economically and tax breaks for any type of business might not be the best idea. Arizona last had a film tax break in 2007, which expired. LaMont said that without it, the state is losing hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and thousands of jobs.

"Once a couple of production companies have success here, it's a snowball effect," he said.

"Suddenly everyone knows it's great to film in Arizona and the incentive program works."

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Al Melvin, a Tucson Republican. He said he expects the bill to pass the House and Senate if it makes it to the floor.

Click here to see a copy of the full legislation, click here.

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