Pittsburgh Film Office laments flat budget from state taxes
By Aaron Aupperlee
Published: Friday, July 5, 2013, 11:33 p.m.
When brainstorming a modern-day version of the fabled feud between the Hatfields and McCoys, screenwriters set the show in Pittsburgh.
But when NBC ordered a pilot, the studio filmed in Boston. That's where it got a tax break after Pennsylvania's ran out.
Experts said the state budget passed this week will hinder the industry's ability to expand here, even though $60 million in 2013-14 film tax credits — the same as the past three years — will continue to attract movies and TV crews.
“This is just going to cut us off,” Dawn Keezer, director of the Pittsburgh Film Office, said Friday. “By not increasing the film tax (credit), we've limited the amount of work in (Pennsylvania). We've limited the amount of jobs, and we've limited the ability to grow the film industry in Pennsylvania.”
Despite talk in Harrisburg of increasing the cap on the tax credits, or removing it altogether, Gov. Tom Corbett signed a budget this week keeping the credits at $60 million. Lawmakers kept growth small, increasing the state's budget by 2.3 percent.
Antony Davies, an economics professor at Duquesne University, said the tax credit costs the state money. The state recoups 14 cents in tax revenue for every dollar awarded in tax credits, according to a study the state's Independent Fiscal Office released recently.
Davies wants the state to abandon the film tax credit altogether and called flat-lining the program the second-best thing lawmakers could do.
The decision “kicks the can down the road,” Davies said, giving lawmakers more time to decide the program's fate.
The state awarded all its tax credits in eight weeks last year, leaving many Pennsylvanians who work in the industry unemployed toward the end of the fiscal year, Keezer said. Many will be back on the job soon as the new fiscal year begins, but Keezer cautioned that the money will run out quickly again.
The tax credit has brought high-profile films to Pennsylvania. Tom Cruise's “Jack Reacher,” filmed in Western Pennsylvania between October 2011 and January 2012, received the credit. The latest Batman installment, “The Dark Knight Rises,” filmed in Pittsburgh but did not receive the tax credit.
The “Hatfields and McCoys” TV series, which NBC ultimately declined to pick up, chose Boston over Pittsburgh because Pennsylvania's film tax credit money was exhausted, Keezer said. She said the state lost 25 projects last year because tax credits ran dry, adding 11 of those would have filmed in Western Pennsylvania.
For the past four years, the film tax credit has brought $100 million in business each year to Western Pennsylvania, Keezer said, citing the state study. Since implementing the tax credit in 2004, the state added nearly 1,500 film-related jobs, some of which are temporary, according to the study. Keezer said spin-off jobs with caters, florists and hotels push the number higher.
The TV and film industry likely will not shun Pennsylvania because of the decision to hold the line on the tax credit, said Vans Stevenson, senior vice president of state government affairs for the Motion Picture Association of America. The industry looks for stability and predictability, he said.
“Because the money's there, the program hasn't changed. I don't think anyone is going to look at (Pennsylvania) differently now than they did a year ago.”
Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7986 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Qualifications of Peduto nominee for building inspection chief come up short
- Suspect in East Liberty slayings may be part of murder-for-hire case
- FirstEnergy last to get smart meter OK
- On Pittsburgh visit, ambassador says $15B in aid to Ukraine shows support
- CCAC to offer early retirement incentives
- Casey says C-130s to remain into ’15 at Moon base, but squadron will lose jobs
- State Superior Court denies ex-Sen. Jane Orie’s corruption appeal
- PennDOT cash eases road repair pain in Lawrence County
- Portion of South Busway to be detoured Friday
- Newsmaker: Charlotte Lott
- House fire in Carnegie, no injuries reported