After a grueling four hours of testimony and debate, the House Ways and Means Committee voted a “do-pass” this evening for HB15 on a party-line, 7-5 vote.

HB15, as we reported over the weekend (see our previous special session updates here), was introduced by Republican representatives Rod Montoya (R-Farmington), David M. Gallegos (R-Eunice), James R.J. Strickler (R-Farmington) and James G. Townsend (R-Artesia), to make a temporary, one-year reduction in the film incentive program cap from $50M per year to $25M per year. Rep. Montoya amended the bill tonight so that the reduction is now to $30 million.

Numerous business people and film industry workers filled the committee room, and many of them spoke eloquently about the jobs, hopes and prosperity that the film industry has brought to New Mexico. Thank you to the many Alliance members who came out at the last minute to show our opposition to the bill, including Pia Hosick from Hertz, who gave strong testimony on the impacts of the film industry both generally and on the travel and hospitality business in particular.

Terri Cole from the ABQ Chamber of Commerce also testified in opposition, pointing out that the Chamber’s top priority is diversification of the economy, particularly in light of the collapse of the oil and gas economy, and clearly the film industry was a strong example of such diversification.

Many of the committee members apparently don’t know that the studies commissioned by the Martinez administration prove conclusively that the film incentive not only creates thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic impact; it also more than pays for itself. The Phase 3 study, released with no fanfare a few weeks ago, shows that Film Induced Tourism (FIT) alone generates $54.4 million in state and local tax revenues each year, more than paying back the state’s $50 million annual investment. You can read the study on line at the film office website at www.nmfilm.com. The studies are also available on the Film Alliance website along with a convenient summary of the key facts at www.fbanm.com.

But back to tonight’s committee hearing. Representatives Javier Martinez and Bill McCamley were incredibly articulate in voicing their opposition to the bill. Representative Carl Trujillo was equally eloquent, pointing out that though the change seems minor, the industry relies on the state for consistency and reliability. (Ironically, the Republican members of the committee were themselves calling for consistency and reliability just yesterday to argue against delaying the corporate tax cuts.)

Perhaps most disappointingly, the Martinez administration has made it known that they are neither supporting or opposing the bill.

The House has adjourned until Wednesday, so that is the earliest the bill could be taken up in the full House. And even if it gets through the Republican-controlled House, it would still have to go to the Senate, which will not be back in session until Thursday at the soonest. (Although the Senate is in recess, several members of the Senate leadership, including Senate Finance Chair John Arthur Smith, were spotted in their Senate offices today, raising hopes that serious budget negotiations, or at least informal discussions, are taking place between House and Senate leaders.)

Want to help? Call House Speaker Don Tripp at (575) 835-2465, House Majority Leader Nate Gentry at (505) 508-0782, and the other House Republicans (find them here) and let them know that your business depends on the film and television industry in New Mexico and that you strongly oppose HB15.

We will follow up tomorrow with further action steps our members can take, including further emails and phone calls, and instructions for turning out later in the week if you can make it up to the Roundhouse.

For talking points and more information on the film industry in New Mexico, visit our website at www.fbanm.com

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