Mr. Capra goes to Raleigh

By: - June 17, 2005 4:43 am


By Mark Schreiner
Raleigh Bureau Chief
[email protected]

RALEIGH | For the second time this year, the state Senate on Wednesday tentatively approved a film and television incentive plan, which proponents said would bring back the ailing industry.

The vote was part of gambit by state Sen. Julia Boseman, D-New Hanover, and other supporters, to untangle the plan from sluggish state budget negotiations and get it on the governor’s desk, perhaps by the end of the month. Senators voted 35-15 in the first of two final votes needed to move the proposal to the state House.

The Senate is set to vote again on Tuesday. House leaders said they were ready to receive it and may debate it as soon as June 23.

Studio and trade union representatives traveled to the capital Wednesday to press for passage of Senate Bill 1144, which would give back to filmmakers 15 percent of what they spend in North Carolina on supplies and salaries.

“It has been a tough five years for the industry, and we need to get back to where we were,” said Frank Capra Jr., president of the EUE Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington. “I know we can. Producers tell me all the time – when you get competitive, we’ll be there.”

The North Carolina proposal is similar to the tax breaks and cash grants South Carolina offers to lure productions. All the states surrounding North Carolina offer filmmakers some tax break.

Senators voted for a similar proposal this spring when they adopted their version of the state’s $16.5 billion budget. The incentive package was packed into the back of a document. The House completed work on the budget late Wednesday. Its version is so different from what Senators wanted that many expect a lengthy negotiation before a final version is adopted.

“The snow could fly before we have a budget,” state Sen. David Hoyle, D-Gaston, said. “This bill is moving forward.”

Ms. Boseman said she promised the NBC network – which said earlier this month it would shoot a new TV series in Wilmington – that she would press for fast approval.

“I gave my commitment to executives from NBC that I would push as best I could to make sure this wasn’t tied up in the budget process,” she said.

Even though lawmakers had seen the proposal before, some pushed to make changes.

Sen. Philip Berger, R-Rockingham, questioned whether the proposal gave away too much.

General Assembly analysts estimated that the tax incentive would cost state taxpayers $6 million a year. But that figure would grow with the industry. (more…)

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Chris Fitzsimon

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina. [email protected] 919-861-2066