BOSTON — State House leaders Tuesday rose to the defense of a sometimes controversial tax break for the film industry after Gov. Charlie Baker put the program on the chopping block to help pay for the expansion of a different tax benefit for low-income families.
While top House Democrats described the earned income tax credit (EITC) as one that enjoys broad support among lawmakers, Baker’s proposals to double the EITC and eliminate the film tax credit could meet resistance from lawmakers who say they’ve seen the benefits of the film industry in their communities.
“I have been a big supporter of the film tax credit over the years. I’ve seen first-hand what it has meant in terms of the local economy, things I don’t even think are looked upon when you consider the film tax credit,” House Speaker Robert DeLeo said.
DeLeo described a visit to the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce where he heard from small business owners, including a florist, a delicatessen owner and someone who rents furniture, of the positive impact on commerce.
Cape Ann boosts
The film tax credit has also drawn wide support on Cape Ann, where Gloucester and its surrounding communities have benefitted from film companies and crews who have used the tax credit to produce a number of films locally.
“The Proposal,” filmed in 2008 in Rockport, Manchester and Gloucester, Adam Sandler’s “Grown ups,” filmed largely at Centennial Grove in Essex, and the HBO series “Olive Kitteridge” have been among the high-profile works filmed on Cape Ann, providing boosts for the region’s creative economy. “Grown Ups” was cited as pumping more than a $1 million into Essex’s economy when its actors and crew settled into working at Centennial Grove for more than three months in 2009.
Baker’s budget, due to be filed today, will propose doubling the state’s EITC to 30 percent of the federal credit, returning an additional $936 in tax returns to qualifying families with three or more children by the time it’s fully phased in by January 2018.
To offset the $145 million cost of the tax break for families, Baker has proposed to simultaneously phase out the film industry tax credit created to help lure big-budget movie productions to Massachusetts. The $80 million film tax credit would be eliminated from the budget by June 30, 2017